Can you really get away with murder? Welcome to the world of Katrina Skinner, a 19 year-old coke snorting single mum who is planning to do just that. Katrina lives in a world of petty crime, fast cars, manicures and blowjobs. Her mother abandoned her years ago. The neighbours are scared of her. The police can’t keep up with her. This master manipulator of men and women lives at home with her father in suburban Golden Grove, Newcastle. Katrina will stop at nothing to get what she wants, even murder. Her father John, has finally had enough of his lying, thieving daughter. With his son Danny in jail for murder, he wants what's best for his granddaughter Bailee. When her father threatens to stop helping her financially and take away her child, she sets in motion a plan to wreak suburban mayhem that will shock the community and make Katrina infamous in a way even she could only dream of.
What The Critics Say
"Barclay is one of the best young stars to explode on to the screen in some time. She brings an important realism to this character, who could have easily become a caricature. You get the impression that beneath Katrina's tornado-like exterior rests a sad and lonely little girl. Paul Goldman's direction is creative and stylish, borrowing the tone of "Chopper"; his film operates as both a drama and a very black comedy. Alice Bell's screenplay is witty, shocking and original. "Suburban Mayhem" is one of the best Australian movies of the year. 4 1/2 STARS."
"Wild and out of control, she's rebellion in a mini-skirt. Hell in high heeled boots. Emily Barclay's Katrina is a wonderful invention, her sexy, bold exterior masking a cold, heartless vamp who instinctively manipulates everyone around her. We know she is bad in the true sense of the word, but we can't help but be fascinated by her."
"It's almost like she's got the potential to be, you know, an iconic Australian creation, you know, that's going to go down in cinema history, I think, this one. For me, it is one of the best if not the best Australian film of the year. 4 1/2 STARS."
Margaret Pomeranz ABC AT THE MOVIES
"This exhilarating film, directed with suitable anarchy by Paul Goldman, is so brave. It walks a dangerous line between comedy and alienation and, because of the convincing performances, delivers a perfect balance. You have to give credit to director and cast. They are all just superb, but Emily Barclay is simply mesmerising as the demon Cat with Michael Dorman, Anthony Hayes, young Mia Wasikowska, Robert Morgan and Genevieve Lemon wonderfully solid around her. This is one of those films where I was sitting forward on my seat thinking I'm just blown away by this. 4 STARS."
David Stratton ABC AT THE MOVIES
The star of Suburban Mayhem is Katrina played by Emily Barclay who has appeared in the US television productions Kidnapped and Deceit and in the New Zealand programs Spin Doctors and Mercy Peak.
Michael Dorman, who plays Rusty, will next be seen in West and 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous and with Emily Barclay in the television movie The Silence.
Gloria Pyten/Gloria Dawn Foundation Young Artist award winner Anthony Hayes appeared in TV's McLeod’s Daughters and Tracey McBean.
Robert Morgan has appeared on TV in Stingers, Blue Heelers and The Secret Life of Us and plays John in Suburban Mayhem.
Mia Wasikowska will next appear in the film Rogue, directed by Wolf Creek's Greg McLean.
"It’s an episodic, often unruly trip that works thanks to a black comic streak, Goldman’s energetic and stylised direction and Bell’s scabrous anti-heroine Katrina. These elements are personified as more than the sum of their parts in a sensationally out-there performance by Emily Barclay. She throws caution to the wind to create a character who’s an unstoppable force of nature – Hurricane Katrina, perhaps. Barclay makes her sexually alluring and repellent, street-smart and bone-stupid, always a heartbeat away from a venomous hiss or a vulnerable howl. The world revolves around her. The film does, too, and it’s at its most vital when Katrina’s at her blackest unrelenting moments."
"New Zealand actress Emily Barclay, who burst onto the scene in the acclaimed drama "In My Father's Den", gives such a tour-de-force performance in "Suburban Mayhem" that you will still be thinking about it weeks later. It's Oscar-worthy. 4 1/2 STARS."
"I was speechless...Katrina is so amazingly narcissistic you have to love her!"
"The filmmakers possibly mean Katrina to be emblematic for all sorts of negative currents running through Australian and Western societies -- lawless youth, widespread cynicism and self-absorption. Granting that, the film offers neither a critique of those societies nor a reason to celebrate a psychopath. "Mayhem" is well produced with a swift pace, vigorous camerawork and solid production design along with occasional bursts of rock music."
"Where another director might have demonstrated genuine empathy with Katrina by using Alice Bell's script as the basis for a full-blown satirical Gothic nightmare, Goldman seems keen to show that the suburbs are also inhabited by people of sanity and goodwill, drawing good but incongruously naturalistic performances from Genevieve Lemon as a family friend and Mia Wasikowska as a manicurist who reluctantly becomes Kat's downtrodden sidekick."
Jake Wilson THE AGE
The Inside Story
"Suburban Mayhem" is the second film Jan Chapman has executive produced. The first was the multi-award winner "Somersault". If the name doesn't sound familiar, think "The Piano", "Lantana", "The Last Days of Chez Nous" and "Love Serenade", all of which she worked on as a producer. "I started to want to help less experienced producers to get their films to happen and around that time Leah and Paul came to see me and they told me about the script which I later read on a plane. I was just so involved with the story, and finding it so funny and amusing, that I didn’t want the plane trip to finish," Chapman says. Her initial reaction to the script is not surprising. "I was very enchanted by it, I thought it was a great tale. Then I met Alice and understood where this fresh young voice came from. We did quite a lot of work on the script to make sure that every scene contributed to the ride. It is the kind of film where you can’t have extraneous stuff, you have to be totally engaged. I’ve always thought about our audience being open-mouthed in anticipation of what’s going to happen next!" So where did this fascinating story of an out of control, sexually maniplulating, thieving, scheming, single mother named Katrina, have its genesis? With an idea by producer Leah Churchill-Brown, whose career started as Miss Leah on the children’s television show, "Here's Humphrey". It was who she discovered that Alice Bell, who’d worked with her as a production co-ordinator for six years, had started to write her own script. Churchill-Brown who graduated from Adelaide's Flinders University in 1979, had been working with a journalist to develop a script about a domestic crime, but it didn't work out. "I didn’t even know Alice was a writer, other than that she would go on holidays and write hysterical emails. But Alice and I love a tabloid newspaper, we share the same black humour and we both love to read a good crime story. It seemed to us that ever since the days of the Menendez brothers and more recently Sef Gonzales in Sydney, there have been a series of terrible crimes in families. That fascinated me because I come from a very happy, normal family," Churchill-Brown explained. "I became obsessed with the idea of nature versus nurture. Does evil exist or does it have to be a crime of passion? Alice started to write ideas down and a year later, with Alice beavering at home at nights and us spending weekends together watching thousands of films, we had a script." Leah showed their ideas to her mentor on another project, the well known Australian producer and director Robert Connolly. His use of the word '‘naughty' inspired Leah and Alice to continue with a script that treaded a fine line between humour and dark drama and to create one of the most arresting central characters ever in an Australian film, Katrina Skinner.
One interesting point about "Suburban Mayhem" is that even by the films end, we know little about a lot of the nuts and bolts that are the fabric of Katrina Skinner's background. "The film, and Katrina, are not apologetic. It seems that in 'script writing law' you have to give reasons; i.e. what had Katrina’s father done to her, but I didn’t want this to be like other films, tied up as a neat little package. I wanted audiences to walk away at the end saying 'wow she got away with it', so I purposefully planted lots of story lines and characters that go up against each other, because the best thing that could happen for me as a writer would be for people to be arguing as they left the cinema and asking questions. Was she abused? Who is the father of Bailee? What did happen between Andretti and Katrina? That’s what small town gossip is like. I want audiences to have their own opinions about what really happened in Golden Grove," says Bell. To say that Bell's character gets away with murder is an understatement. It appears Katrina gets away with everything, including her fathers house. Bell says she deliberately set out to do that with Katrina. "I had to come up with a character who was probably a version of myself if I had taken away all the boundaries you get growing up. I took characteristics from different murderers and I took away all of society’s boundaries and any concerns for consequences, and that’s how I created the idea of Katrina," Alice says. "Once I had the character, I threw her into the middle of suburbia, I gave her a baby; because it was such a nice contrast to what she was about to do in the film, and then Katrina wrote herself. She’s a character who just doesn’t stop." Like Hurricane Katrina which devestated New Orleans, Katrina Skinner is a force of nature. "I had always thought of Katrina as a hurricane. It is easy to talk about the terrible things Katrina does, but what I like about her is that she is so exciting. She’s terrifying to watch but she’s also the person you’d rather be with than not ‘cause otherwise the party is pretty dull. She is alive. She may not be living life the way we all would, but she’s definitely having a better time. She has a lot of wit. She says things that no one else would ever dare to say and that’s why she is so funny," Bell notes. But it's more than that, surely? "The film is a wild ride, a ride of madness, energy, power, wickedness, but it is mainly about someone who has no boundaries and I think it is exciting for people to watch someone with no boundaries; it’s like that vicarious part of yourself that you’d like to be able to indulge a little bit," producer Jan Chapman said. And when it comes to indulgences, Katrina has plenty.
Director Paul Goldman who script edited with Bell for a year recalls, "I didn’t want the film to descend into farce. There are lots of black comedic moments in this film, the humour of it is very, very important, but it was always going to be a fine line; I didn’t want it to become Kath & Kim or Sylvania Waters, or too knowingly self-conscious." One thing everyone involved in the production quickly realized was, that there would be no margin for error when it came to casting the actress who would play Katrina. Casting the role of Katrina was an obvious challenge. It was clear that Suburban Mayhem would sink or swim on that one casting. Paul chose as casting director Anousha Zarkesh with whom he’d worked on his previous two features. "Anousha knew that I was never going to have any 'eureka' moments. I never sit there and say 'wow I’ve found the character'. I tend to tease myself and tease the whole discussion out. We saw a lot of girls and we saw a lot of good actresses. Emily’s name had been floating around ever since we’d seen her in "In My Father’s Den" eighteen months before we started casting. I always had my doubts and spent a lot of time convincing everyone else that Emily wasn’t the right person, but there was some quality about her which meant that strangely she was always in contention. To Jan Chapman’s credit and to my eternal gratitude Jan insisted that we keep going back to Emily. We got her back from New Zealand for an audition and she just blew us all away. It was so obvious that she was the girl we’d been looking for. She is amazing in the film so it‘s strange to think we had doubts about her." Alice Bell, who became good friends with Barclay says, "Emily is perfect to play Katrina. She’s sassy, funny, intelligent and a little bit crazy. She has an intensity that I haven’t seen before. he’s a rare find and her performance brought out so much in the other actors. I think everyone was racing to meet her. Sometimes I had to remind myself during the shoot that she was Emily not Katrina; she really inhabited the role." Visually, the film is every bit as stunning as its lead character. Newcastle was chosen as the location in which to shoot "Suburban Mayhem". "We scouted all around from Adelaide to Wollongong, but the film office in Newcastle here was obviously very persuasive and very helpful," said Goldman, "and part of our financing package was being able to get finance from the New South Wales Government’s Regional Filming Fund."
The Verdict
"Katrina Skinner is one character who will truly go down in Australian cinema history thanks to an energy charged performance by 2005 New Zealand Screen Best Acting Award winner Emily Barclay. A devilish storyline, a brilliant soundtrack and an imaginative style of shooting will definately suit younger audiences. "Suburban Mayhem" is brash, cocky and certainly challenging. Never the less it will provide plenty of entertaining moments for those who love anything with a hint of anti-establishment and a large dose of non-conformity. Be warned; if you're offended by strong language; generous lashings of thighs and breasts or anything with a hint of drugs in the storyline, "Suburban Mayhem" will probably disappoint. For everyone else, "Suburban Mayhem" should provide one glorious, highly rewarding, uniquely Australian, cinema experience. Excellent. 4 STARS."
Cast & Crew Bytes
"SUBURBAN MAYHEM" stars .......
2005 New Zealand Screen Best Acting Award and 2005 British Independent Film Most Promising Newcomer Award winner Emily Barclay
["Terror Peak", "Noone Can Hear You", "Cockle" and "In My Fathers Den"]; Michael Dorman ["Small Claims", "The Silence" and "The Secret Life of Us"]; Steve Bastoni ["He Died with a Felafel in His Hand", "The Matrix Reloaded" and "Macbeth"]; Laurence Breuls ["Blackrock" and "Ghostrider"]; Robert Morgan ["He Died with a Felafel in his Hand", "The Proposition" and "The Book Of Revelation"], Genevieve Lemon ["Sweetie", "The Piano", "Soft Fruit" and "The Postcard Bandit"] and AFI Best Supporting Actor Award winner Anthony Hayes ["Ned Kelly ", "Bootmen", "Rabbit Proof Fence" and "Look Both Ways"] as Kenny.
"SUBURBAN MAYHEM" was .......
directed by AFI Award winner Paul Goldman
["Australian Rules" and "The Night we Called it a Day"]; screenplay by Alice Bell ["Suburban Mayhem"]; production design by Nell Hanson [Art Director on "Australian Rules", "Russian Doll", "A Man’s Gotta Do" and "Opal Dream"]; costume design by Melinda Doring ["The Night we Called it a Day", "Australian Rules", "Chopper" and "The Honourable Wally Norman"] cinematography by AFI and IF Award winner Robert 'Bob" Humphreys A.S.C. ["Mullet", "Walking On Water", "Somersault" and "Opal Dream"]; edited by Stephen Evans ["The Night we Called it a Day", "Australian Rules", "Chopper" and "The Honourable Wally Norman"]; produced by Leah Churchill-Brown [Documentaries "Nicaragua: No Pasaran" (1983) and "Chile: Hasta Cuando"(1985)] and executive produced by 2002 Chauvel Award winner and Centenary Medal recipient Jan Chapman O.A. ["Somersault"].
Run Time 95 minutes
Rated MA15+ [AUST]
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