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Australia 2009
Directed by
Jon Hewitt
91 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3 stars


Synopsis: Two young friends who were sexually abused as children are given the chance to avenge the crime when they witness something sinister in the woods. After spying a man burying a dead body they decide to blackmail him into killing the man responsible for their childhood pain. Unfortunately they underestimate the killer and his potential prey and the boys are in way over their heads.

 Working with the biggest budget of his career to date, Jon Hewitt’s Acolytes is a beautifully shot thriller that combines many elements of the director’s previous work whilst refreshing the serial killer genre with a few fresh twists of its own.

 Hewitt has always worked at the forefront of digital technology. His first film, Bloodlust, was the first Australian film ever to be banned in the UK and his 1992 thriller, Red Ball, was the first film to be shot on HD in Australia. With Acolytes he pushes the format to its limit. The cinematography, in particular the widescreen woodland vistas, brings a striking dimension to the film with the suburbs on the edge of the dark forests developing an eerie persona of their own. Without them this would have been a very different film. It’s not only the visuals where the film excels, the sound mix is astounding

 Not that the film is perfect. Joel Edgerton has fun as the moustachioed murderer and Michael Dorman acquits himself well as the subject of the teen’s revenge plot but the young actors cgarged with the task of blackmailing a serial killer don’t always rise to the bloody challenge. Hannah Mangan Lawrence is fabulous as the object of the boy’s desires but of the two young actors only Sebastian Gregory is good as the shy Mark. Joshua Payne, as James, has the showy role but doesn’t quite get past the arrogant attitude that blinds his character. All said though, Hewitt has to be commended for casting young actors in the youthful roles as this certainly lends the film an air of realism.

The weaving plot-line loses clarity on occasion, especially when Michael Dorman’s character fights back in a junkyard but the confusion soon sorts itself out as the film reaches it twisting conclusion.

Asking the question “what would you do if you discovered a killer operating in your neighbourhood?” most would reply “call the police”.  In Acolytes, the answer is a surprising one that takes the audience into the dark depths of guilt, revenge and adolescent angst.




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