‘Love Lies Bleeding’, a top #metoo thriller; Dreadful Oz comedy in ‘The Nut Farm’; half-baked horror schlock with ‘You’ll Never Find Me’; Strong satire in ‘American Fiction’; ‘Society of the Snow’, a stirring survival story

Dynamic duo: Katy O’Brien and Kristen Stewart in ‘Love Lies Bleeding’.

LOVE LIES BLEEDING ***1/2 (104 minutes) MA
Just when we were all gripped with fear that the sub-genre of #metoo films was spluttering, along comes the wondrous Love Lies Bleeding, a ripping, tightly wound revenge thriller.

Speckled with lust, cathartic violence and a creepy performance by Ed Harris that redefines “bad dad” the film, directed and co-written (with Weronika Tofilska) by Rose Glass, restores faith that films about women squaring up against bad men continues apace – hopefully in the spirit of Promising Young Woman rather than Women Talking.

Set in 1989 in one of those small over-heated American towns full of dust and pick-up trucks, the femme-driven caper of Love Lies Bleeding gets going when when lazy gym manager Lou (Kristen Stewart) sparks up a relationship with body-building drifter Jackie (Katy O’Brien).

They’re sufficiently into each other to justify some visually pleasing, tastefully shot moments of intimacy, particularly Lou’s love of watching Jackie flex her toned physique.

O’Brian, an established actress, clearly worked out like a bandit to shape up for the film and, to her credit, carries herself with the confidence of someone who could floor a truck driver in a single blow without spilling her beer.

Things go awry when the pair observe Lou’s sister Beth (Jena Malone) suffer abuse at the hands of her redneck sleazebag husband JJ (Dave Franco, very convincing).

In what initially seems like a good move Jackie, whose muscles swell Hulk-like whenever she gets angry, literally take matters into her own hands.

Her well-meaning spot of Charles Bronson-esque vigilantism has far-reaching consequences, however, especially when Lou gets involved.

A punchy, pulpy little number that draws you in from its opening minutes, the film does feature an unexpected and clever finale that some might find out-of-keeping with the rest of the film.

It actually works nicely, the advice being to go with it as the film’s satisfying coda makes clear what actually happened. What a terrific way to close off a movie.

As for Kristen Stewart, she’s top-notch here, following the performance pattern seen in many of her films where she starts off with an air of insouciance before becoming increasingly coloured by emotion.

It’s certainly strong enough to finally forgive her for Charlie’s Angels.

THE NUT FARM ½ (96 minutes) PG
If you’re looking for a case study about how not to make a comedy, look no further than The Nut Farm, yet another awful Australian film. American comedian Arj Barker plays a crypto king who comes to Australia to run the macadamia farm left to him by his uncle. It’s about as funny as a toothache.

Rather than write a thesis about how and why the film is so bad, it’ll suffice to advise all – especially fans of Arj Barker – to avoid this film. He’s such a funny guy. What was he thinking?

The only point that needs punching is how incoherent the story is, again raising the suspicion the screenplay was several drafts away from completion when the cameras rolled.

YOU’LL NEVER FIND ME *1/2 (96 minutes) MA
In this half-interesting, half-baked slice of Aussie horror schlock a soaking wet young woman (Jordan Cowan) stumbles out of the rain and into the isolated, snug caravan of Patrick (Brendan Rock), a bearded loner who offers her shelter, dry clothing, food and a shower.

A largely dull attempt at a closed-in horror thriller, the performances are absolutely dreadful: Cowan’s shivering anxiety is unconvincing; Rock’s monotonal drone is simply tedious, carrying no sense of menace. Perhaps they were just doing their best with the awful, off-centre dialogue.

Directed by Josiah Allen and writer Indianna Bell, things start getting mildly more interesting at about the half-way mark when the truth about what’s going on gets the onion-peel reveal.

By then, unfortunately, it’s too difficult to care. The standard lighting and sound tricks don’t help much. And how big is this caravan?

The film has a brief jog through cinemas before hitting Shudder on 22 March. Even defenseless horror movie addicts who’ll jump at anything should wait.

AMERICAN FICTION ***1/2 (117 minutes) MA
Fresh from winning its Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for writer/director Cord Jefferson, American Fiction clocks in as a razor-sharp satire about the modern-day pretentions of the literary scene.

Dr Thelonious Ellison (Jeffrey Wright, in an Oscar-nominated performance) is a vaunted black college professor who is frustrated that he can’t get his learned works published.

Noting the favour being shown to works that play into the diversity-driven fad for authors who present “authentic” voices detailing the African-American experience, he jokingly writes a novel in that mode as a sarcastic gag to his agent.

Though he exploits the black stereotypes he despises, the book attracts huge attention and he subsequently has to pretend to be the angry street-smart man who penned it, his motive being to pay for the care of his elderly mother.

A finely honed skewering aimed at the nonsense of identity politics, the film balances satire with a touching parallel tale about aged care. Top stuff.


SOCIETY OF THE SNOW ***1/2 (144 minutes) M
With its emphasis on making you feel the cold and sense of abandonment of its unfortunate characters, Society of the Snow recounts in great (and sometimes graphic) detail the incredible true-life tale of the 1972 Uruguayan plane crash that stranded the young members of a rugby team deep in the Andes mountains after a search failed to locate them.

The most sensational part of this well-known story is how the starving survivors had no choice but to begin eating their dead colleagues.

Though depicted without flinching, the film sensibly framed it as part of the larger survival story, which involved killer avalanches and attempts to trek on foot to civilization.

The film makes a strong companion piece to the very good 1993 American film Alive (directed by Frank Marshall), which depicted the same event and that director J.A Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) admired and used as a reference point.

Incorporating some awe-inspiring widescreen location photography, the film creates a palpable and powerful sense of place as the gruelling drama unfolds, with much stress on the indifference and cruelty of nature.

As big a part as faith played in their survival, Bayona also keeps focus on the fortitude and sheer luck that shaped this extraordinary and odds-defying tale of endurance.

The film was nominated for a Best International Feature Oscar, which was taken out by The Zone of Interest.