Written and Directed by Ursula Dabrowsky
Produced by Sue Brown
Featuring Cassandra Kane, Kerry Reid, Alex Rafalowicz
Another new Australian indie that combines atmosphere and storyline for one hell of a mindfuck, Family Demons takes alcoholism and child abuse to a chilling level of consequences. Poor young Billie is a teenage girl with a crappy mom – she drinks, beats Billie, chains her to the bathroom toilet, brings home vile men for cheap sex, and never bothers to stock the cabinets with any food. No longer able to exist with quiet desperation, Billie decides to take steps to remove herself from her abusive situation. Only, because of horrific and diabolical reasons, Billie will never, ever be able to leave her mother – no matter what she tries.
Kerry Reid is beyond vile as the depressingly familiar figure of Mom; alcoholic, broke, aging, unhappy, and always inebriated. Taking out her frustrations in her child in violent ways, Mom makes it clear to Billie (played by Cassandra Kane) that she was unwanted and, in fact, the product of a terrifying rape. Mom has never dealt with these issues, instead having become mired in them and has dragged her young daughter down with her.
Cassandra Kane as 'Billie'
Billie, forbidden to leave the house, is taught always by her mother to fear the outside world – to revile the men out there who want to hurt and harm. Mom seems to have good reason. But this doesn’t prevent Billie from wanting, desperately, to escape the chaotic and unhappy home to which she is confined, even if it means stepping out into that terrible world outside. With the surprising help of a sweet teenage boy who represents Billie’s salvation, Billie concocts a plan to escape. And Billie’s mother decides to interfere, in any way she can, to keep Billie from leaving.
The cycle of child abuse has rarely been dealt with in horror so deftly as in Dabrowsky’s film. The unusually female-centric story seeks out the violence that can be dealt and inherited from one generation to another, and how people can be haunted by events, memories, and pain caused by years of neglect and abuse for the rest of their existence. By throwing in a supernatural element, Dabrowsky makes her abuse story a horror film for audiences who love to see moral tales retold by dark symbols and the horror of isolation and fear. The whole film takes place within a short amount of time and in limited locations, but the stellar approach to art direction and cinematography doesn’t let that become a problem.
Family Demons plays with the time-space continuum in that it shows very important details out of sequence. The effect is great; sort of like what was accomplished by Memento’s back and forth depiction of a person slowly losing their mind. Billie is a complicated character- one the audience will find they alternately want to smack and to protect (probably the way her mother feels most of the time.) The horrifying conclusion will make you feel like shooting yourself in the head, right after you down a bottle of vodka. It’s that upsetting. I approve.
I will have to check that out! Yeah, I think that Aussie films, in horror, tend to be quite original in terms of storyline and characters when compared to what we're used to in the United States. Different culture, I guess! But I love it.
"Another great thing about being 70,000 light years away from the nearest Starfleet vessel is that once we finally get back to Earth, we can makeup bullshit stories. Off the top of my head: 'We met Amelia Earhart,' 'We singlehandedly eliminated most of the Borg fleet' or 'Paris and I turned into giant pink lizards and mated.'"