Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair 2019

The Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair is one of the major events for pop culture memorabilia, toys and comics in Adelaide. Now in its sixth year, the event opened at the Marden Sports Complex (MARS) in Marden on April 14. After enjoying my first visit in 2018, I decided to once again go along again and like last year, this didn’t disappoint.

The first thing that caught my attention as soon as I entered the MARS Complex was the sheer size of this event. It was far bigger than the one I attended in 2018, which was held in the German Club on Flinders Street. It took up almost the entirety of the complex and had numerous stalls all filled with toys, comics and pop culture goodness. Visitors could buy Star Wars figurines, VCRs of classic movies like Alien and the latest comics from Greenlight Comics.

Like many of these events, there are always at least two standout items on sale. This year there was a sealed box of a Sega 32X, an add-on for the Sega Mega Drive. Sold by King Kaiju Collections, one would be paying of upwards of $1,000 to own this strange but unique history of Sega. The other item was a tea pot shaped as the genie from Aladdin (1992) one would pay about $49.95 for.

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Representing local creators at this year’s event included Dark Oz, Matt J. Pike and Dr. Mike 2000. Alongside his usual items of horror and sci-fi comics, Dark Oz owner Darren Koziol was selling Laserdiscs. One standout of this collection was a copy of Titanic. Pike was selling his books which include the Apocalypse series, which is a post-apocalyptic series set in Adelaide. Dr. Mike 2000 sold his Universe Gun comic series, a collection of twelve volumes which is basically Yellow Submarine meets sci-fi.

A number of different pop culture clubs and societies were present at the event too. One of these included Starship Mawson, a local sci-fi and fantasy society. In attendance of this stall included the society’s founder, pop culture historian and avid Tintin fan Stuart A. Blair. Fresh of the heels of the Franco-Belgian Comics exhibition at Supanova, Blair once again had a small display of Tintin memorabilia for attendees to enjoy.

If there are any criticisms for the Comic and Toy Fair this year it would be the venue itself. While the MARS Complex was massive, there was little to no air conditioning or fans available on the day. It was a warm day and inside was stuffy and hot, distracting from the enjoyment. The complex too is in an inconvenient location for those who don’t drive, which would have held some people back from attending.

The 2019 Adelaide and Comic Toy Fair is by far bigger and better than last year’s event. It’s still one of the prime events for pop culture, comic and collectible lovers around Adelaide. Entry this year was $4, more than last year, but still worth it considering the treasures waiting to be discovered.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Us

The opening of Jordan Peele’s sophomore horror film Us, opens with a young Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) wandering away from her bickering parents on a coastal boardwalk into a house of mirrors, only to find her reflection come to life. As an adult with a husband and two kids, Adelaide returns to the site of her past trauma to find the same demons fully grown and very bloodthirsty.
Peele portrays a family on holiday perfectly. Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), the father, is full of Dad jokes. The children, Zora Wilson (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason Wilson (Evan Alex) are fun to watch bickering with each other and Gabe. Their family dynamic brings a light element to a film that plays with some very dark concepts. There’s a scene where Adelaide and Gabe are arguing with Zora about who gets to drive the family car by debating who has the highest kill count that had me cracking up in the cinema. This might be a horror, but there’s still touches of Peele’s talent for comedy. Us has been casted extremely well and Peele knows what to do with the talent at his disposal, especially the lead actress. Nyong’o is a powerhouse performer and the duality and depth she brings to both nervous, traumatised Adelaide and her clever, bloodthirsty double is masterful – at times I forgot the two vastly different characters are played by the same actor. With any luck this will be the first of many films with Nyongo in the forefront.
The soundtrack deserves special mention. The film offers a curated list of absolute bangers by primarily black artists, including a menacing remix of Luniz’s ‘I Got Five On It’ which is a stroke of genius. It’s very refreshing to have a horror soundtrack that isn’t colonised by heavy eighties rock ballads or creepy children’s nursery rhymes.
Us preys on the familiar fear that our reflections have an interior life in the mirror and they hate us. Except the doubles, or Tethered as Adelaide’s double calls them, are not really reflections. They’re more like shadows, relegated to abandoned underground tunnels, attached to their other half who lives a normal life, they’re seemingly forced to enact an uncomfortable and joyless facsimile of their counterpart’s day to day actions. There’s a scene where we see Adelaide’s wandering off at the boardwalk from the perspective of her double and the Tethered performing the act of participating at a carnival without being at an actual carnival knocks you off kilter, makes your shiver.
Peele claims this film is not explicitly about racism like its older sibling, Academy Award winning Get Out was, but it’s hard to look past the way this film pushes back against racist and sexist conventions of the genre. Us doesn’t have the taste for dead black bodies or sexual violence the way other films in the genre do, rather it’s a much more high concept, intellectual horror. Peele has crafted a film full of clues that you could spend hours pulling apart quite happily, although it’s not always to the film’s advantage. @kyalbr on Twitter has an interesting thread about the way this film comments on the duality of black identity that I recommend you read after you see it. There is also definitely a statement about privilege – the Tethered are as human as their shadows but are abandoned, unloved and forced to live like animals. There’s nothing to stop them living full, normal human lives except for the circumstances of their birth. That said, I did find the world-building surrounding the Tethered to be a tiny bit under done, which made the underlying political allegory muddled. The doubles are tied to the other person wearing their face and are bound by the choices their doppelganger in the above makes, but they have their own names and personalities. They are also able to move independently of their counterpart, which for me raised a lot of questions about the mechanics of their connection and the need to free themselves of it. Us also never really gives an adequate explanation for the Tethered existence – Adelaide’s double offers her theory but it’s thin and perfunctory at best. As a result, the desire and motivations for the Tethered also seemed lacklustre and murky. It felt as though both of Lupita’s characters could have held the answer to this problem but neither of them wanted to give it up, so I left feeling slightly underwhelmed by the threat of the Tethered and by the big reveal at the end.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend this film, even for those like me who are not great with scary movies. It’s funny, smart and chilling. Peele is a must-see director for me and this didn’t disappoint. I recommend taking a friend to see this with you as Peele leaves you with so much to think and talk about.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough
4/5 stars.

Happy Death Day 2U

Time-loop murders have never been so funny.
Happy Death Day 2U, as you may have guessed from the title, is a sequel to Christopher Landon’s critically acclaimed horror film Happy Death Day, a movie which combines the endless time-loop anomalies of Groundhog Day with the added element of a relentless serial killer. In the first movie, sassy sorority girl Theresa “Tree” Gelbman, portrayed by Jessica Rothe (La La Land, Mary + Jane) finds herself stuck in a time-loop, reliving Monday the 18th over and over as she is hunted down by a serial killer in a baby-face mask. But despite unmasking and defeating her killer, and finally making it to Tuesday the 19th, Tree once again finds herself stuck back in the time-loop once in Happy Death Day 2U, albeit with a sly twist or two.
Set immediately after the events of the first film, this sequel builds on the premise of the first movie and takes it to new territory. While the first movie is certainly a more traditional slasher affair, Happy Death Day 2U has more of a sci -i and comedic twist, that successfully mirrors and expands upon what we’ve already seen. We finally get an answer to how this time-loop is happening, and what may finally stop it, in the form of a science experiment gone wrong by overly-ambitious physics students, Ryan Phan (Phi Vu), Samar Ghosh (Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi) and Dre Morgan (Sarah Yarkin). Also back for the ride is love interest Carter Davis (Israel Broussard, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) to help crack the case armed with only his boy-scout determination and heart-melting smile.
While the trailer for this film makes it look like a much more of a classic slasher movie, especially when produced by Blumhouse Productions, who made The Purge, I would instead classify this as a dark comedy. And as someone who usually avoids horror movies and gratuitous gore, I loved this. The characters are all immediately charming, the dialogue is witty and off-the-walls funny, and Rothe’s portrayal is spectacular. You can really see the frustration in every aspect of her performance at waking up to find that once again she’s stuck in this hellish nightmare. There are also just some really excellent visual moments, in the montages between deaths and waking up, that really give this film more of an artsy feel than typical teen slashers like Scream. But ultimately there are still enough jump scares to keep the slasher fans happy, this film continuing to do what it did in the first one and playing with audience expectations, giving you multiple fake-outs before finally revealing the killer.
Fans of the first movie will love this, but this sequel also works well on its own, thanks to the quick but informative recap near the start that sums up the first movie – which was helpful because I personally had not seen the first movie before this one. But I’d definitely recommend you watch Happy Death Day first just to get the most out of the sequel, so you can truly appreciate all the call-backs and mirroring that this film does so well.
Given the title, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a lot of death and violence in this movie, even if it’s rather cartoonish at times, but I would definitely issue a trigger warning for suicide due to a particular montage where Tree attempts to end each day on her own terms instead of waiting to be killed. It’s played for comedic affect, especially as she’s cheerily waving to the sky diving instructor as she drops out of a plane in a bikini, but just be aware of this part of the movie.
In summary, Happy Death Day 2U plays with genre expectations and delivers a thoroughly entertaining ride that will have you laughing one minute, covering your eyes in fear the next, and breaking your heart a moment later. It’s a roller coaster I’d be happy to live through, again and again and again.

 

4.5 stars.


 

Words by Simone Corletto.

Hereditary

In our current horror canon brimming with found-footage invisible demon encounters, possessed dolls and questionable nuns, Ari Aster’s Hereditary is a further step towards the horror genre being taken seriously.

The film follows the Graham family in the aftermath of Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother’s funeral. Her death, seemingly innocuous, begins a sequence of disturbing and violent events which cause the family unit and the individuals within it to unravel. As basic a plot description as that seems, going into detail ruins all kinds of nasty surprises – the trailer itself barely reveals anything. And indeed, this horror film can be considered a mystery with your viewing experience underlined by mutterings of ‘what the hell is going on?’ to the friend you forced to accompany you and the answers not being revealed until the last twenty or so minutes.

What can be revealed though is that the film is horrifically transfixing. Aster (who also wrote the film) has created an atmosphere that we coexist with forces both omnipresent and evil. It is another example of horror-drama (which I could abbreviate as ‘dramor’, or if you’re feeling particularly risqué: ‘horma’) that joins other films such as The Witch in depicting the destruction of the family unit as they fight against the incomprehensible. When you watch the film, there is this constant sense of dread and wrongness, like the conviction that eyes are watching when you leave the closet door slightly ajar. It is the ambiguousness of the evil force disrupting the family that is possibly the most unsettling thing about this film and keeps your eyes on the screen for fear you’ll miss some essential clue. But let me save you the time: you will literally never guess what is going on. The ending, however, is very polarising. While it (thankfully) explains the reasons behind everything, it comes out of left field and doesn’t have as satisfying a payoff as I wanted. You will have your questions answered but you might feel annoyed or perplexed at the answers – expect the unexpected.

I cannot say anything bad about the acting. Toni Collette’s portrayal of Annie engages in all extremes of the emotional spectrum: comedically cavalier or thrashing in the throes of grief – she convinces you. Gabriel Byrne, as her husband Steve, represents a more introverted despondency that is all the more crushing for being hidden. Annie’s children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) deliver performances that are soul-crushingly affective. Every character walks with the pall of defeat, drained of colour and optimism and we, the audience, feel similarly defeated; rooting for an unrealistic happy ending. It feels like we are watching their essences being slowly siphoned off leaving hollow vessels in their place.

With very few jump scares and very few instances of gore (though they are quite visceral), Hereditary still proves an unsettling, emotional watch. It might not give you those Paranormal Activity-esque sleepless nights but you may leave feeling a little hopeless. We won’t blame you for keeping tabs on your family either, for the film proves that are worse things in the world than that uncle who gets drunk at the family barbecue and asks intrusive questions.

 

 


Words by JT Early.

3.5/5 stars.

DECAY Comics (2010-2018): Australia’s Longest-Running Horror Comic Anthology Series Is Coming to an End

After eight years and 24 issues, Dark Oz’s horror comic anthology DECAY will be discontinued. The announcement came when issue 24 went to Kickstarter in early April, stating that it will be the last issue of the Adelaide-produced series.

It’s been a tough decision, really tough and letting go of DECAY is very hard,’ says Darren Koziol, creator of DECAY and Dark Oz Comics. ‘I have decided it’s time to move on to other projects, other comic book series’ that is, I have a wealth of stories to tell.’
Issue #24 of DECAY will be the first Dark Oz publication to be funded by Kickstarter. ‘Many people have said I should try a Kickstarter project,’ says Koziol. ‘Kickstarter allows you to find a wider audience, internationally too, to showcase the comic to more customers than I can reach from conventions alone.’ The Kickstarter campaign ended on April 18th 2018, receiving a total of $AUD 5,420, exceeding its original set goal of $AUD 2,010.

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Darren Koziol (Creator) at Australian Movie and Comic Expo 2015

Koziol started both Dark Oz and DECAY in 2010. He was inspired to create DECAY after his lifelong love for comics, and a particularly keen interest in horror anthologies like Creepy and 2000AD. The series has since become the longest-running Australian made horror comic anthology series, according to Koziol.
One of the focal points of the DECAY series over the years has been on Australian arts/culture. The series features at least one Australian creator/writer each issue as a way of opening up Australian art and storytelling to the world. Many stories and covers in the past have had an Australian setting, with numerous stories being set in especially Adelaide/South Australia. The series has also had its own fair share of original characters, including The Sisters and the Fuck-Ups. The Sisters are three vampire sisters who appear in numerous one-off stories, while the Fuck-Ups are seven psychopaths who think they’re the A-Team, but as their name suggests, always fuck up. These characters were created by Koziol himself and now either have their own or planned comic series.
There have been many highlights of DECAY over the years, but perhaps the largest of them all is its appearance at the 2016 San Deigo Comic-Con (SDCC). As part of this trip, Koziol created a Best of series of DECAY comics to take over to sell to the American audience. These Best of DECAY series were retitled Ozploitation. The same was done for Dark Oz’s other series Retro Sci-Fi, which was retitled 2525. He was the only Australian exhibitor at the 2016 SDCC.

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Darren Koziol at San Deigo Comic-Con 2016

Although the DECAY series is coming to an end, the future looks bright for Dark Oz. The Retro Sci-Fi anthology series will continue, with issue six now in development, and the second issue in the Sisters series will be coming soon. Trade paperbacks of the Best of series are currently in the planning stage for DECAY and Retro Sci-Fi. ‘While DECAY is coming to the end,’ says Koziol, ‘Dark Oz comics will continue for a long time yet and will continue to publish top-quality comics, showcasing Australian creators for comic book readers and collectors everywhere.’


Words by Cameron Lowe
Pledges for DECAY issue #24’s Kickstarter campaign closed on April 18th. For those looking for information on the Kickstarter, follow the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/467328161/decay-24