Blame -- Film Review

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SYDNEY -- Young vigilantes find their coldly calculated murder plot unraveling at the seams in this compact little thriller set in a remote corner of Australian bushland.

A strong cast of up-and-comers helps first-time writer-director Michael Henry maintain tension as he carefully teases out the plot twists to make the most of a single location and a deceptively simple concept.

Although a generally tight script stumbles in the second act as the characters chase their tails for a while, the suspense is otherwise skillfully modulated and places "Blame" squarely in the front row of a recent spate of young-adult thriller/horror films out of Australia.

It's a raw first effort but a fine calling card for Henry and his young actors as it makes its way around the festival circuit after a warm reception at the recent Melbourne International Film Festival. It opens domestically next month.

Armed with nothing but a bottle of sleeping pills and a devouring hunger for revenge, five young people in balaclavas and funereal black invade the isolated outback home of a middle-aged music teacher (Damian de Montemas.)

He is hogtied and force-fed the sedatives but kept as much in the dark as we are as to his would-be killers' motive.

The intruders drive off, leaving him for dead beside a suicide note on his laptop. Soon they are back -- a cell phone's been left behind. They find their quarry groggy but alive, and the recriminations begin.

As individual resolve falters and fault lines appear in otherwise rock-solid relationships, we learn more about these hot-headed avengers and what exactly this man has done to earn their murderous ire. The truth inches out, and his culpability is questioned, giving the two female leads, Sophie Lowe ("Beautiful Kate") and Kestie Morassi, scope to play a range of emotional tilts. Both rise to the task.

A stark, piano-heavy score builds a creeping mood as Torstein Dyrting's camera lingers on quiet interiors and peers bleakly through stands of gum trees.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production: 3monkeyfilms, Factor 30 films
Cast: Sophie Lowe, Kestie Morassi, Simon Stone, Ashley Zuckerman
Screenwriter-director: Michael Henry
Producers: Ryan Hodgson, Melissa Kelly, Michael Robinson
Executive producer: David Lightfoot
Director of photography: Torstein Dyrting
Production designer: Clayton Jauncey
Costume designer: Sarah Jameson
Music: Tamil Rogeon
Editor: Meredith Watson Jeffrey
No rating, 89 minutes
Sales: High Point Films
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