"When I first saw this film", said the London Film Festival luminary who introduced it, "I was haunted by it for weeks". I can't say I had the same reaction: I was mildly annoyed for a few minutes, perhaps.
The plot is actually pretty decent: Parker, a surveillance operative, is hired to spy on a young woman. He moves into a dilapidated building opposite her flat, from where he takes pictures and listens in on her telephone conversations. But strange things are happening in his building: the shower water suddenly runs scalding hot, blocked-up windows mysteriously unblock, and there's a jar full of an ever-increasing amount of black liquid in the corner. All this - plus strange visions of his deceased young son - seems to be having an effect on Parker's health...
But the film has the feel of a student project that somehow metamorphosed into a full-length production. It's very arty-farty - the washed-out shots of isolated clifftops had me expecting to see Death with a chess board at any moment. No effort is made to explain many happenings - such as the bear's head, or the faceless woman, or that jar of black liquid - giving the impression the producers thought they'd be really cool things to put on screen but couldn't be bothered to work out why they should be there. And that's before we consider the mistakes: the energetic sex scene where Parker is obviously still wearing his underpants, and the woman supposedly just stepped out of a shower who is, in fact, bone dry. But in the scenes where Parker is roaming around his claustrophobic house, the film-makers have unquestionably successfully created a dark and threatening atmosphere, and some the close-up camera-work of, for example, carpet threads or drops of blood is pretty good.
In the lead role, Lindsay Farris is a near-constant presence on screen; as such it's fortunate that he's easy on the eye, nicely filling his white T-shirt and black jeans. But there are too many shots of him leaping backwards in surprise, and his American accent wavers all over several States (and becomes Irish at one point). In fact, although the cast is largely Australian - and this is an Australian film - they all use American accents - an emerging trend in Australian cinema? (see also 'Infini').
I like to end reviews on a good note, so here's one: when Parker awakens from a nightmare, does he do the usual thing of sitting bolt upright in bed, panting heavily? No he does not! His eyes snap open in surprise, but he stays laying down. A definite plus point in the film's favour - some film clichés really should be laid to rest.