The claustrophobic and terrifying ghost film The School will screen at the 2018 Monster Film Festival at Event Cinema GU Film House city on Friday (27 July) and Flinders staff and students are invited to join the Monster Fest Travelling Sideshow for a big night (look for $12 members tickets).
Ashwood, who completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in screen studies and philosophy at Flinders in 2001 and went on to specialise in film psychoanalysis and philosophy, describes his new film as “Lord of the Flies meets Peter Pan meets Labyrinth”.
“It’s scary but it’s not that scary,” he says. “It’s more of a psychological thriller than a horror film, and it’s not gory or anything like that,” says Storm, a highly acclaimed script, screen and short story writer whose music clips and short films have screened at film festivals around the world.
Ahead of his second feature film Escape and Evasion, the low-budget Monster Fest feature stars an outstanding Australian cast including Megan Drury (Rescue Special Ops), Nicholas Hope (Bad Boy Bubby, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Trust) and Will McDonald (Home and Away).
“The kids, in particular, were incredible. They definitely steal the show,” Ashwood says.
“Around 180 women auditioned for the lead role, and as soon as we heard Megan read the script, we knew she was the perfect one for the role.
“When Will (McDonald) read the script, I knew the role as it was wasn’t quite right for him. So I developed the character and ended up adapting the role specifically for him. He is a fantastic young performer.”
Ashwood’s Honours focus in psychoanalysis and philosophy come to the fore in the Monster Fest premiere, which he describes as a psychological and supernatural thriller.
The School is about Amy, a doctor, wife and grieving mother who hasn’t left her comatose son’s side in two years. One day she awakens in what seems to be an abandoned old school and finds herself a prisoner to a mob of displaced cultish and feral kids.
Trapped in a hostile supernatural purgatory for children, Amy becomes an unwilling surrogate mother and must try to escape an impending evil.
As terror ensues, Amy must find her way out, fighting against the supernatural and, ultimately her own, demons.
After 18 years in the industry, Ashwood is excited to be moving into feature filmmaking with his latest venture.
Friday’s 7pm Adelaide screening includes a Q&A with cast and crew and a late-night screening of 1994 Australian classic, Rolf de Heer’s Bad Boy Buddy.
Alice Springs-born Ashwood says one of the skills he took from Flinders University was to “create sub-text within a film”, which he used when he co-wrote The School.
“At Flinders, I was able to really hone in on the craft of adding multiple layers to a script, and how to tell a story through multiple facets of characters and environments,” he says.
“While it’s ultimately a thriller film, the lead character The School also deals heavily with loss and hope amongst the overarching theme of being in this kind of hell, which is difficult to get across if the story isn’t told in the right way.
“My skills were really nurtured at Flinders. As a dyslexic student with a tendency to stutter, I always felt supported and encouraged by the staff but I had all these great ideas and no way to tell them because I couldn’t write well.
“(Creative Arts lecturer) John McConchie, in particular, was pivotal in my success. He made me take an English as a second language course … which completely turned my grades in writing around, and from there I came back and did Honours.
“The theory at Flinders is some of the best in the world. I learnt so much in my time there, skills that I still use today.”
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