Fantasia Fest 2015: Observance (2015)

Fantasia Festival is in full swing.  Right after we saw We Are Still Here, I stayed back to listen to a little Q&A and then headed over right away to the theatre across to watch the World Premiere of an Australian psychological horror called Observance. It was hosted by the cast and the director. Here’s a little snapshot from the Q&A at the end of the movie.

Fantasia Festival 2015

I love psychological horror and if anything, its been scarce (or just rarely my choices) at Fantasia Festival so believe me, I was pretty excited about this. But then, I’m usually excited about world premieres.

Observance (2015)

World Premiere


Director: Joseph Sims-Dennett

Cast: Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Brendan Cowell, John Jarratt

After his son’s death and the resulting hospital bills causing him to have immense financial burden, Parker takes on a well compensated job as (something like) a private investigator to spy on a woman across the street from a designated apartment.  He can’t leave his apartment, ask questions or contact anyone.  All he can do is observe and report what he sees. However, as uneventful as it seems at the beginning, he starts experiencing strange dreams and questionable events happen in the isolated apartment that start to bother him. Enough to make him wonder whether this job was a good choice in the first place especially when his unknown employer seems to be working with a hidden agenda.

Observance 2015

As I was thinking about how to write the review for Observance, I started thinking about whether I really liked this or not.  Fact is, these thoughts carried on for a few days and then I started thinking: what makes a psychological horror good? Its that it makes you think. It builds and lurks in your mind days after.  It can mess you up a little while giving you that creeping feeling that’s there.  Its just all in your mind though and those thoughts will make you subconsciously suddenly look around the corner and wonder if I’ll have strange things happen just like what happened to Parker.  What also took so long was that Observance is a game of beliefs.  Is Parker paranoid? Is there spirits lurking in that isolated rundown apartment? Was there a deeper meaning in the various scenarios that played in his head? We get answers but we also leave knowing that there is a lot of ambiguity here.  Are you okay with ambiguity? When I first left the theatre, I felt that the ambiguity was too much.  It was so ambiguous that it became hard to follow, except now that I’ve had a few days to think about it, I think Observance deserves a second viewing and its one of those psychological horrors that require one because you can now see more, notice details maybe.


Fact is, after days of thinking about it, Observance does a good job at being a psychological horror. The apartment, the focus on when to focus on isolated sounds and when to merge in some sombre music, even how to flow certain events and when to drop hints on where this whole plot is going.  I’d be lying if it didn’t creep me out a lot during the movie.  I cringed and shifted in my seat.  Its the unknown that sits high and proud in this one that overshadows and churns up all those feelings of dread.  That creeping feeling latched onto me and to be honest, I had to close my eyes a few times and for one scene, just totally turn away from the screen and one scene that you might not want to take your eyes off of. So yes, as a psychological horror, it definitely does its job right.


Aside from building the atmosphere really well, what totally takes the win in this one over everything is the cast.  80% of the movie is central around our main character Parker, played by Lindsay Farris.  This man can definitely act. He pretty much did a one man show of a man, in a way, deteriorating inside, getting paranoid and being confused and all that stuff that comes with a psychological horror.  However, being directed only from afar, Stephanie King, who is the girl being watched, also does a great job.  We get a cameo from the crazy guy in Wolf Creek as well.

Overall, Observance is a psychological horror which will make you wonder a little what you watched at the end (at least I did).  It drops hints throughout the movie but what makes it a worthy psychological horror is that it builds a great atmosphere and introduces very effective scares, knowing when to make it show up, and utilizes sounds very well to help add to it.  With a small but solid cast, especially for the main character, the premise of Observance is really good.  While I did complain about it being a little too ambiguous, I really think its a very thought provoking psychological horror that might just lurk in your thoughts for a while and make you peek around the corner even if we don’t have some questionable black liquid sitting in a jar in the corner or newspapers covering the entire wall. There’s something more (and different) with Observance that is worth a chance if you like psychological horrors. I might sound vague but I really want you to experience all the surprises yourself, in the end, that’s what makes it scarier, right?

Do you like psychological horror? What do you think about Observance?

Halloween Marathon: Wolf Creek & A Lonely Place to Die (Double Feature)

Its a bit hard to get so many movies up in a week so I’m going to keep up this double feature going.  It’ll help me cover a few more movies and not have to over analyze any of them.  How does that sound? The main features will get full reviews.

Next up was a last minute addition since it expired today: A Lonely Place to Die.  I like Melissa George a lot in thriller-esque movies so I was pretty excited to add this in.  Its more of a thriller than a horror but I like to group in thrillers for these marathons.  And for the next horror, I decided to finally watch Wolf Creek.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect for either so lets check it out! 🙂

 WOLF CREEK (2005)

wolf creek

Director & Writer: Greg Mclean

Cast: Nathan Phillips, Kestie Morassi, Cassandra Magrath, John Jarratt

Ben (Nathan Phillips), Kristy (Kestie Morassi) and Lizzy (Cassandra Magrath) all go on a backpacking/road trip. Their plans are to go hike to Wolf Creek before making it to party in Cairns. Outside Wolf Creek, the car ends up dying and they are stranded in the middle of nowhere.  Luckily, they get help from a man driving through the area.  This man offers his help however, it turns out he ends up taking them captive instead.

wolf creek

Wolf Creek is a pretty effective horror movie.  It builds up slowly in the beginning to how everything just turns to crap afterwards.  I found the ending bit a little bit predictable but the whole setup of the movie and the building up pulled me into the movie. There was a part where I was yelling at the character to do something. I usually am pretty contained when I watch movies so thats a pretty good thing.

wolf creek

I expected this one to be more gory than it actually was but then I’m not saying that the torture/kills weren’t sadistic because they were.  They were actually pretty different than others I’ve seen.  It really helps that the bad guy is extremely creepy and just gets under your skin (at least he got under mine). The three backpackers don’t exactly make great choices and some of the dialogue just makes this into a typical horror movie but the premise of it all, the sum of everything makes it a pretty good and effective horror movie.

What I’m saying, despite some flaws, Wolf Creek is a worthy horror film and I was highly thrilled and entertained by it (for the most part). 🙂 If you haven’t seen this, you might want to give it a chance.



Director (& co-writer): Julian Gilbey

Cast: Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Alec Newman, Kate Magowan, Garry Sweeney, Holly Boyd, Douglas Russell, Alan Steele, Sean Harris, Karel Rodden

A group of five mountain climbers: Alison (Melissa George), Rob (Alec Newman), Ed (Ed Speleers), Jenny (Kate Magowan) and Alex (Garry Sweeney), go for a climbing trip in the Scottish Highlands.  While hiking to the mountain, Ed hears a sound and alerts the others. Following the sound, they find a breathing tube buried in the ground.  Collectively, they decide to dig out whoever is under there.  They find a frightened little girl, Anna.  When they pull her out, it becomes clear that she’s valuable to a hidden presence in the forest as they get targeted.

a lonely place to die

A Lonely Place to Die is a pretty awesome thriller.  There was a lot of evading, running in the woods and fast-paced action filled with bullets flying all over the place as they try to save Anna.  It was an exciting watch.  Unlike Wolf Creek, this one builds up pretty quickly and we never really quite get to know the characters before we dive straight into the action and adventure portion of things.  We quickly get an idea of where the story is headed but we never quite know at any point whether any of them will get out of this mess.

I always expect pretty good flicks when Melissa George is on board. I saw her in 30 Days of Night in last year’s Halloween marathon (review HERE) and it was pretty good.  There is no doubt that Melissa George’s Alison was the main character in this even though it didn’t really start that way.  Still, its not as much about the character as the situation they are in: stranded and preyed on in the middle of unknown grounds trying to get back to civilization where they will be able to get more help.  Whats nice in this one is that this one has really smart characters and they actually work out some viable and believable solutions.

There’s a whole lot to like about A Lonely Place to Die.  You want to hold on to the edge of your seats? This one is paced to be that way and it doesn’t fail itself.  Its remains a constant till the ending and that makes this an exciting experience.  Not to mention the Scottish Highlands are extremely beautiful to see, except I might want to hold off on any hiking trips there after this 😉

Have you seen Wolf Creek and/or A Lonely Place to Die? Thoughts on these two?