Filmmaker Megan Riakos has filmed the wrap-around segment for an anthology of horror short films by female directors which she is curating with producer Leonie Marsh.
In the segment shot by Justine Kerrigan, which will top and tail the film and link to each chapter, Andrea Demetriades (Babyteeth, Reckoning, The End) plays Clara, who is obsessed with her late mother’s cherished The Book of Dark Whispers.
Each weird tale sheds light on a new facet of the twisted human psyche, or not-so-human, from the horror of grief to a share-house living disaster, from existential dread to right-swiping vampires.
Comprising 11 shorts plus the wrap-around, Dark Whispers – Volume 1 showcases films by Angie Black, Briony Kidd, Isabel Peppard, Janine Hewitt, Jub Clerc, Kaitlin Tinker, Marion Pilowsky, Katrina Irawati Graham, Lucy Gouldthorpe, Madeleine Purdy and Riakos.
Each receives a licence fee and a share in a percentage of the film’s profits. The casts include Asher Keddie, Anthony LaPaglia, Bree Desborough and Jamie Irvine.
Riakos conceived the idea after attending the Stranger With My Face International Film Festival in Tasmania with her short The Shed and later with her 2015 debut feature Crushed, which starred Sarah Bishop, Les Hill and Roxane Wilson.
“The festival focuses on female filmmakers whose films take a unique approach to genre storytelling,” she tells IF. “I wanted to bring films like that to a wider audience, knowing that my own short still had more life in it as well.
“In the final stages of making Crushed I experienced first-hand the difficulties of getting genre work with a female-voice distributed. Despite this, I managed a strong local release with over 40 screenings nationwide and acquisitions by Qantas and Channel 10, proving there really was an audience for female-led genre films even if the distribution pipeline hadn’t recognised it yet.
“Last year we did a call-out for existing horror shorts by women, whether made recently or not. We received nearly 50 impressive submissions from almost every state and territory in a myriad of sub-genres. There are great hidden depths of talent out there and we’re thrilled to be able to provide a spotlight through this project.”
If Volume 1 is a success she is looking at a couple of options for the second volume: broadening the scope to encompass shorts from other genres, such as sci-fi, where women filmmakers are under-represented, or original commissions.
Leonie Marsh, founder of female producers collective Screen Vixens and a member of the advisory board of Raising Films Australia, an advocacy group aimed at generating more opportunity for parents and carers in the screen industry, joined the project as producer with Riakos.
Deadhouse Films’ Enzo Tedeschi (The Tunnel, A Night Of Horror Volume 1, Event Zero) is the executive producer. Briony Kidd, festival director of the Stranger With My Face International Film Festival, helped with curating.
Marsh took a break for the last two years as she and her family relocated from Sydney to the South Coast and she had her third child.
“Working with Megan on this anthology was a wonderful opportunity for me to dip my producing toes back into the water in a very manageable way,” Marsh says. ‘Over the past couple of years I have had to lean into the fact my young family always comes first and now being regional, it’s even more of a challenge to remain in the industry.
“Megan has taken an innovative approach to filmmaking and distribution with Crushed and she brings this ethos into all aspects of Dark Whispers, making it possible for me to collaborate with her on this special project.”
Riakos pitched the project at the MIFF 37°South Market last year, prompting a lot of interest from distributors and sales agents.
The anthology is due to be completed in July before heading for the festival circuit followed by a special event screenings tour around Australia.
Writer/director Marion Pilowsky; story by Issy Pilowsky
A student happily accepts a ride back to university unaware it will change his life forever. Starring Anthony LaPaglia.
Writer/director Katrina Irawati Graham
A lonely Kuntil Anak, Indonesia’s most famous ghost, haunts a grieving widow but doesn’t count on the hidden life force in the woman’s unborn child.
Writer/director Janine Hewitt
When Zoe, terrorised by a stalker, receives an unexpected visitor she learns that when you’re trapped in the past, you have no future. Starring Asher Keddie and Bree Desborough.
Little Sharehouse of Horrors
Writer/director Madeleine Purdy; writer Joel Perlgut
Maeve is all about wellness and, unlike her derro housemates, she cares about what she puts in her body. But there’s something off about the kale she got from the markets.
Director Lucy Gouldthorpe; writer Claire d’Este
Milla the vampire uses online dating to shop for her prey, until finally she gets to go on a date that doesn’t suck.
The Man Who Caught a Mermaid
Writer/director Kaitlin Tinker; writer Jean-Phillipe Lopez
An old fisherman captures a mermaid in a world that tells him they don’t exist.
Director Briony Kidd; writer Claire d’Este
A glamorous, attention seeking actress will do anything to make sure you never look away.
Writer/director Megan Riakos; story by Chris Womersley
An alcoholic man living alone in his dilapidated house goes on the hunt for booze, only to find a mysterious creature lurking in his back shed. Starring Jamie Irvine and Benedict Samuel.
The lyrical and monstrous are interwoven in this stop motion, animated short film that tells the story of Gloomy, a woman struggling to overcome the sadness of a broken heart.
Director Angie Black; writer Michael Harden
A grieving mother surrenders to an extraordinary emotional journey after the death of her child.
Writer/director Jub Clerc; co-writer: Sylvia Clarke
Two adventurous Kimberley kids wander deep into the Mangroves at sunset, only to find the terrifying campfire stories of the Gooynbooyn Woman may not be a myth after all.
The Book of Dark Whispers (wrap-around)
Writer/director Megan Riakos
When Clara discovers her deceased mother’s treasured book of Dark Whispers she voraciously consumes the horror stories in each chapter. Starring Andrea Demetriades.