Something nasty in the suburbs

Melbourne Director Paul Goldman says he could have called his latest movie Laughing and Gasping, because that is the response the film incites from audiences.

Instead, he opted for Suburban Mayhem.

"It is a laughing, gasping, film," said Goldman. "You enjoy the comedy. It has a very dark comedic vein and then you get suddenly ambushed by everything becoming surprisingly intense."

Suburban Mayhem was shot in Newcastle and tells the story of a 19-year-old Katrina Skinner, who persuades her boyfriend to kill her father.

Sydney-based New Zealand actor Emily Barclay plays the lead character, Katrina, with support from Steve Bastoni, Anthony Hayes and Michael Dorman.

"It is not a morally ambiguous film ... The main character is immoral and it has a happy ending, but for the wrong person," said Goldman.

Suburban Mayhem had its world premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival in May, screening again at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.

In Cannes, the film received mixed reviews from critics, with one reviewer labelling the movie "hollow".

"The film has more attitude than depth," wrote Screen Daily reviewer Lee Marshall.

"In the end, the film is too seduced by its central character, and not concerned enough with little matters such as story structure and tonal continuity."

Variety reviewer Jay Weissberg said the film "lost steam" half way through.

Newcomer Alice Bell, who wrote the script for the feature, did not escape the criticism.

"Much ink has been spilled over wunderkind scripter Alice Bell, but though she's got an ear for authentic dialogue, she overloads the second half with plot while helmer Paul Goldman fails to bring the rear with sufficient momentum," Weissberg wrote.

The Hollywood Reporter was equally scathing, saying "the movie goes by fleetingly enough but you search in vain for any insights".

At the time, Goldman said he felt the reviews had been a "slap in the face".

"Of course I was disappointed because you want everyone to like your film," he said.

"The ending here is apparently a problem for some people because it is immoral - it has a happy ending for the wrong people for the wrong reasons."

L Barclay said it was always going to be a film that would polarise viewers.

"It is not a film that everyone will love," she said. "People will either like it or really not like it.

"That is fine because it is people's opinion."

Suburban Mayhem is Goldman's third film.

His first feature, Australian Rules, was released in 2002 and was well-received, but his follow-up big budget studio picture, The Night We Called It A Day, was canned.

Goldman said that experience had put him off Hollywood. "It was one of the most goddamn horrific experiences of my life," he said of the film, which starred Denis Hopper and Melanie Griffith and was shot in Melbourne.

"I kind of realised that being a 'gun for hire' was ... that what they do is put the gun in your hand and then they put the gun at your head and it is loaded and you pull the trigger.

"It was not a wonderful experience for me and I was very disappointed by the film."

Goldman says working on Suburban Mayhem had been a far more enjoyable experience.

"I am involved with a group of people I really trust here," he said.

"My life is spent making films, so unless it is going to be an enlightening experience, no matter how tough it might be or how much un-fun I have, if it is enlightening it is a large part of life.

"Telling stories and making films is simply one of the greatest pleasures of my life."


Suburban Mayhem plays at the Academy in Auckland, as part of the World Cinema Showcase, on March 16,18 and 23.

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