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Australia 2009
Directed by
Dean O'Flaherty
97 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
2 stars


Synopsis: Daniel Hobson (Sebastian Gregory) is a shy 14-year-old outsider living in the very suburban Sunshine Hills. He is obsessed with photography and his neighbour, Suzy Thomson (Tahyna Tozzi), a 17-year-old temptress who is dangerously sexy but extremely immature. Thanks to Mrs Thomson (Deborah-Lee Furness) the neighbourhood is rife with rumours of teenage girls being abducted and mutilated while up the street, at the run-down No. 46, a strange woman in white (Asher Keddie) stares out of the window. She lives with the reclusive Max (Socratis Otto). Suzy offers Daniel friendship in exchange for his bringing photos and whatever he can discover about the old house and its mysterious occupants.

First time director Dean O’Flaherty acknowledges that he has been influenced and inspired by films such as Disturbia, American Beauty, and The Virgin Suicides in the making of his debut feature. He has in fact come up with a very workable theme – the dangers of seemingly idyllic suburbia, where things seem beautiful on the surface but where the power of imagination leads suggestible and wayward adolescents into all sorts of ultimately destructive fantasies and behaviour. However the film falls down spectacularly in its execution, with an overblown histrionic narrative and plot holes big enough to drive a truck through/

The movie opens in a promising manner, with a palpable sense of tension and menace. A schoolgirl walking home fearfully in the dark is contrasted with Suzy lounging seductively in the rain in her swimsuit while Daniel skulks about photographing her. As Mrs Thomson speaks of missing girls we see frightening shots of what could be happening to them. Suddenly, many of the dark scenes are counterpointed with a montage of beautiful shots of nature – roses, close-ups of snails, trees and I wonder if I’ve stumbled into a National Geographic documentary. As an opener it is interesting gambit albeit that stylistically it feels rather forced.

Dan’s ostracism from his fellow students is well-established both by the way they bully him, and in the lectures his policeman father, Alan (Aaron Jeffery from McLeod’s Daughters), gives him. The mystery of what happened to Dan’s mother is also an intriguing hook, with the boy looking at old photos in which her image has been removed and an implied sense that Alan may have been involved in the mother’s demise. Dan’s relationship with Alan’s long-term live-in girlfriend Sherrie (Peta Wilson) is fascinating and also gets one in. Images of the mysterious woman at No. 46, and the black car in its driveway intrigue and threaten. Even when Dan is lured into jumping the fence and photographing at the old house, I felt engaged and still interested.

Then somehow everything seems to run right off the rails. Without giving away too much, as Dan gets more involved with the folks at No. 46, and Suzy gets more manipulative of Dan, the film goes rapidly downhill. I ceased to believe in any of the character’s motivations and actions and think if there were an award for unconvincing endings, this film would get it.

Certainly I found interesting the concept of how urban myth can influence people’s perceptions of their neighbours, I liked the idea of a vulnerable boy being used by the object of his crush, and I enjoyed the blending of that fine line between reality and delusion. But whilst the young Gregory shows talent, the rest of the cast suffer from a pandemic of overacting and the entire promising idea just falls flat.




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