Directed By: Loren Johnson
Written By: Katrina Rodriguez
Starring: Andrea Burdett, Luke Ledger, Pia Prendiville, Mauricio Merino Jr
UK Certification: 15
Running Time: 89 minutes
Distributor: Monster Pictures
UK Release Date: 11th August 2014
When the director of a $50,000AUD budgeted Aussie film with a cast of largely first-time actors and crew states that he endeavoured to create a similar atmosphere to that of Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), you have to admire his ambition. Frustrated with the opportunities that lay within the barren film community of Perth, Loren Johnson decided to be proactive and raise a budget while casting his net wide and far for an inspiring script. Once found, and with a cast assembled that included a debut performance from Luke Ledger – cousin of Heath, the stressful process of low budget filmmaking began.
Deep in the Australian bush reside a group of disaffected teenagers with behavioural difficulties who were taken by force from their homes, carried by van with a bag over their heads, and dumped unceremoniously in this outback location. For the group it’s a traumatic undertaking but as the new additions realise where they are, registration begins to take place in the style of a highly disciplined military orientated roll call. This proves an opportunity to discover the reasons for the kids being here – from stealing money, to going AWOL, to taking drugs. Youth behaviour modification is the modus operandi for the camp and the teens find themselves in a highly regimented routine.
On the outside, unbeknown to the group a former resident of this boot camp has been to the police to inform them of his mistreatment, a claim that the police are treating seriously. The police inspector decides to take a trip up to Camp Redback to see for himself how accurate these claims are, and quickly gets the impression things aren’t quite what they seem. Meanwhile, the appearance of a ghostly apparition alludes to the fact that some long buried secrets are about to come to the fore.
While praise is indeed due solely for the production, completion and distribution of this low budget movie, I can’t help but shed some negativity on proceedings with the absence of resolute direction within the movie. I thought the structure of the movie was a little inconsistent with certain scenes outstaying their welcome, while others appeared too brief. One of the early scenes for example when the residents line up for inspection by Harris (John McPherson) the camp’s drill sergeant styled leader, it seems to drag on forever. McPherson too sadly doesn’t quite gel with the character, and the menace that Harris should imbue is somewhat lacking.
The same could be said too about the way it meanders across genres. Is it a drama that wants to comment on the rehabilitation of a disaffected youth, is it a police procedural or is it a thriller that simply aims to uncover a buried secret? Is the supernatural angle really warranted in this narrative? It’s so ambitious, and yet with a cast peppered with first-timers its aspirations just seem too lofty as it develops into a frustrating experience for the viewer. Something much simpler would have been much more effective, and while not a total disappointment, Raven’s Cabin leaves you thinking that this was a missed opportunity for this young group of actors and filmmakers.
4 out of 10
An introduction to the film by the director
A behind the scenes montage of stills