BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: an education in the occult.

WATCHING ninety minutes of this film almost made me want to petition the Council to lighten up Wellington’s streets. I’ve never seen this city look so seedy and menacing. It’s also the perfect setting for Glenn Standring’s debut horror film The Irrefutable Truth About Demons. I’ve always thought if you want to make someone feel uncomfortable, show sodden pavement, and that’s precisely what Strandring did. He achieved what the stated aim of horror films through this grunge, and that is make the audience feel uncomfortable.

Poor Harry Ballard (Karl Urban). Not only has he lost a brother to suicide, been framed for his girlfriend’s murder, received packages oozing blood, and taken a smorgasbord of drugs, he’s also being pursued by a demonic cult who are after his soul. The only person he seems to be able to trust is a whacked out crazy called Benny (a very good Katie Wolfe) who looks like she’s walked off the set of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Admittedly this can be seen simply as a genre piece, albeit one that is pretty good. Some of the humour is a little awkward and forced, and I’m not sure if I’m entirely convinced Urban would be a particular good university lecturer. And if you think too hard, the plot is rather silly. But this is one half of the film.

The visuals are fantastic, especially given the low budget of the film – Standring’s been taking a lot of cues from the likes of Blade Runner etc. The film plays out like an industrial-horror film, and is thrilling and interesting enough in that respect. In particular, there are some excellent villains – shave someone’s head, give him some piercings and you’ve got someone’s worst nightmare (and so those poor people with piercings continue to be shown as freaks). The gore is reasonably effective too, though a little more restrained than our other famous horror export, Peter Jackson. There are also some nice Expressionist references too – Caligari plays an important narrative role, while Standring has the rather pleasant Schreck Villas as a wee reference to Nosferatu. While this is hardly earth-shattering cinema, this is an effective horror film. I look forward to seeing the release of Standring’s 2006 revisionist vampire film Perfect Creature.