By Simon de Bruyn

The Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) kicked off its 10 days of madness last night, with the world premiere of Kel Dolen’s Gates of Hell at The George Cinema.

Festival director Richard Wolstencroft says this year’s line-up was bigger than ever, while still adhering to the festival’s charter of transgressive, erotic, “trash” and genre cinema. He says one of the most anticipated films on the MUFF menu is Jon Hewitt’s Acolytes, a $4m production which is worlds away from the first feature Hewitt made – with Wolstencroft – in 1992.

“I’ve known Jon since we made Bloodlust together and it’s really satisfying to see him return to MUFF with a big genre feature. He’s really come full circle,” he says.

The Australian contingent of films is strong. Aside from Acolytes and Gates of Hell, and an array of short films, Wolstencroft has programmed Aussie features such as Plum Role, Cannibal Suburbia, No Through Road, Totally Weird Shit, Devil’s Gateway and Steven Kastrissios’ anticipated debut The Horseman, which also played at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

The Horseman was buried in the MIFF program, so we’re bringing it out and giving it a big Saturday night screening,” he says.

Like MIFF, the underground festival is doing an Ozploitation retrospective, featuring hard to find cult classics Next of Kin, Wake In Fright and others – and this prompts Wolstencroft to point out the failings of bigger festivals like MIFF.

“It was heartening to see MIFF have an Ozpolitation retrospective this year; however we’ve had about five of those retrospectives before. What is missing from Australian film festivals is a curatorial vision, which I think MUFF and festivals like Revelation in Perth do; most other festivals have got this pot-pourri of all sort of stuff but without the vision,” he says.

The Melbourne Underground Film Festival runs from 9-19 October. You can view the program online, and also check out more of Richard Wolstencroft’s thoughts on Australian cinema at his blog. You can also watch the trailer for Acolytes here.

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