Reece (Shane O’Meara) and his friends are all grown up, in the early stages of adulthood, though some are interested in having another big hurrah in their old childhood stomping grounds at Fountainhead Creek. Even though the creek has been fenced off and is now private property ever since a child went missing years ago, Matt (Josh Ockenden) and Mike (John Doughty) have found a way through, via boat, and the friends go about assembling and transporting the large gathering.
And all is debauched partying in the wilderness fun, except Matt’s girlfriend Charlotte (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) is a little unimpressed with Matt’s popularity with the ladies, Reece is secretly in love with Charlotte and Reece’s younger sister, Shannon (Ripeka Templeton), has found her way to the party too, much to his discomfort. Still, beer and other substances are cheerfully consumed as the night wears on, and it’s only in the morning that things start to turn ugly. A few folks become violently ill and presumably leave the rest behind, taking the boat with them, and those remaining begin to suffer similar symptoms of intense illness. Reece and friends soon learn that something is seriously wrong with Fountainhead Creek.
Despite the second half’s mysterious plague epidemic, Harrison Wall’s Weaverfish is actually a slow burn narrative. We have our main conflicts, but like real life, they aren’t all addressed in some melodramatic fashion.
Thus, Weaverfish becomes a hard film to classify. It’s certainly a young adult drama, but it’s also not that insanely melodramatic. It’s got horrific elements, but I don’t know that I’d call this horror. Environmental young adult drama thriller? Probably. I think the film comes together, but for all its eventual shock value, it’s primarily a subdued affair.
For example, Reece’s feelings for Charlotte. We know he has them, he knows he has them, Charlotte has an inkling, but it’s not like Reece and Matt are going to come to blows for Charlotte’s hand. Or even for other Matt-related reasons I won’t spoil here. Instead, it’s sticky dramatics between friends that stay predominantly under the surface.
Which is a plus for the realistic depiction of life; folks often hide their true feelings and suffer, or rejoice, in silence. It’s a minus, however, in that it feels like nothing is really going on for large chunks of the film’s time other than friends bullshitting and partying. Again, we know from early on that something is seriously off about this trespassing trip, but it’s not realized until after their night of partying, when people are getting ill, but even that is handled in a slow manner, as the sick don’t progress very far, but take a while to go nowhere. If the first half was friends bullshitting and partying, the second half is friends fretting and vomiting. It’s appropriate, but not necessarily intriguing. If your attention span is short, this one will try your patience.
Things pick up near the very end, however, when the true nature of their plight is realized and, to be honest, of all the possible ideas of what was going on in this film, I never would’ve guessed the ending of this one (I mean, I didn’t). Not going to spoil anything, but it’s as odd a twist as I’ve seen in a very long time. So strange, in fact, I would’ve liked more time with that element of the narrative, perhaps more clues leading up to it in the interim, to make the impact more powerful. Reflecting back, you do have subtle hints of the danger, and the opening narration does more heavy lifting than I originally thought, but I was more curious about the overall motivations than anything.
In the end, Weaverfish is a deliberately paced film with a very out-there ending. The main question for the audience is whether they can stay engaged in the middle where things slow and stretch out. It’s a solid effort regardless, but it’s not going to be for everyone.
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