Take a Journey Down Under with ROAD GAMES and MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE from Shout! Factory

An Australian rock icon and a thriller set against the Outback

As is the case for most of the world, many planned vacations are being postponed until…well, who knows when. Exploring the world outside of your back yard has been suspended thanks to the coronavirus, leaving all of us trapped in place during the time of year when venturing out into other lands is the number one desire on lots of people’s minds. As always though, movies have come to the rescue, offering us getaways through curious filmmakers and the stories they have chosen to tell.

One of the most sought after destinations anywhere in the world continues to be Australia, which has had a pretty rough time as of late, thanks to a severe earthquake, cases of political unrest and widely-reported brushfires…all before Covid-19 happened. But the country, it’s people and the overall beauty of Australia has weathered it all, proving itself to be one of the most enduring parts of the world. If a lack of tourism this summer only adds to the list of everything else the country has been forced to experience, the folks at Shout and Scream Factory have paid tribute to the country through some recent home video releases, which pay homage to it in different ways while giving vacationers stuck at home a small taste of Aussie culture.

Road Games

One of the most bizarre and tense movies ever to come out of the Australian independent filmmaking boom of the late 70s/early 80s had to be this stirring, unforgettable thriller. In Road Games, Stacy Keach stars as a truck driver traveling through the outback who picks up a hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis) amidst radio reports of an escaped serial killer traveling that same stretch of highway. Road Games can rightfully be called a slow burn by today’s standards, yet packed the right amount of punch for the time it was made. So many elements, including the sprawling outback, the various side characters and the overall feeling that things just aren’t quite right in this corner of the world, make Road Games an unnerving experience.

Keach is great in a rare leading role and Curtis shows much of the promise which would later bring her stardom (even if her role is largely a supporting one). The film is a favorite of Quentin Tarantino and it’s easy to see why; there’s a true surreal quality to Road Games, from Marion Edwards’ strange housewife character ready to leap off of a cliff, to the scene inside the back of the truck containing the large slabs of meat the main character is hauling that’s made all the more eerie thanks to the harrowing lighting used. If the movie’s ending may seem a bit anticlimactic, it’s only because of the strikingly unsettling nature of everything that’s come before it. Road Games may not be everyone’s tastes from a gene perspective, but it’s one of the most unforgettable views of the country ever put to film.

Mystify: Michael Hutchence

While the Bee Gees and AC/DC may continue to reign as two of the most legendary bands to ever hail from the land down under, INXS isn’t far behind them. With their legions of fans, the 6-piece rock group made their name in the early 80s with hits like “Need You Tonight” and “Disappear,” recording and touring into the late 90s as they seamlessly adapted to shifting musical tastes at every turn until the sudden and shocking death of lead singer Michael Hutchence in November 1997. For years, when people commented on Hutchence, it was either about his iconic good looks or the circumstances surrounding his death (some called it suicide, while others labeled it a tragic accident). The documentary Mystify: Michael Hutchence looks beyond both aspects to examine the real Michael Hutchence.

Director Richard Lowenstien (a longtime friend and collaborator of Hutchence’s) has made a film that strings together hours of footage from concerts, interviews, music videos and an array of home movies; as well as countless photographs for what amounts to a document of Hutchence that’s both deeply personal and incredibly cinematic. Through this we see Hutchence at his most candid; a man both down-to-earth and philosophical, insecure while full of bravado and soft-spoken, yet brimming over with charisma. Family, former bandmates, friends (such as Bono) and past lovers (including Kylie Minogue and Helena Christensen) are all on hand to give their memories of Hutchence. But each of them appears in voice over only as Lowenstein lets the footage of the man himself dominate Mystify like the magnetic and mystical spirit he remains so long after his death.

Beyond being just the country which gave us Olivia Newton-John, Baz Luhrman and Russell Crowe, Australia’s artistic well runs deeper than most give it credit for; a fact more than proven by both Hutchence’s talent and the unnerving quality of films such as Road Games. Both prove to be stellar testaments to the country and fascinating representations of the culture which defines it. Like many, a new favorite past time for me these days has been to speculate when it’ll be fully safe to travel again. I do hope it’s sooner rather than later since I’ve got two destination weddings to attend in early 2021. But until then, I suppose we shall all continue to rely on the movies as our magical and visceral passport to other worlds we have no way of visiting at the moment.

Road Games and Mystify: Michael Hutchence are both available on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout! Factory.

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