Ghosts...Of the Civil Dead (1998)
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"Ghosts of the Civil Dead" is Australian director John Hillcoat's first feature -- also, his first collaboration with musician/screenwriter Nick Cave (preceding "The Proposition," "The Road" and this year's "Lawless").
A vanguard prison trumpets its cleanliness and efficiency, but the corrupt staff conspires to push the inmates toward a self-destructive riot. There's not much more to the story, and "Ghosts" is one of those films where every character strains so hard to be grim, intense and frightening that you end up just rolling your eyes. I approached this movie as a Cave fan, and he indeed is the best reason to watch. During his feral heyday, he appears as a hate-speaking psychotic who spends all his screen time screaming vulgar abuse at whoever is unlucky enough to fall within eye range. Good fun. Alas, his crude score (composed with help from two of his band members) is little more than a loop of four ascending cello notes with wispy female moans on top.
Considering its harsh setting and premise, "Ghosts" is much less violent than expected. Most of the fights occur offscreen. This may be a cost-cutting measure as much as an aesthetic choice. But if you're keen to watch rugged men glowering in isolation, do not miss this film.
It's quite an unique film, but uneasy to watch. The narration is quite different, the film techniques are extraordinary. I must say the screen play is somewhat scattered, with non-directional editing. The use of colour for the prison was pretty interesting, but the film failed to provide any entertainment. The film is, very Aussie indeed, but also very unrealistic (The character-Lily is kinda disturbing to watch)
Vastly understated gritty prison drama which displays horrid details of humankind via an unjust and irrational prison system. Slow and gradually eerie, but with many missed opportunities.
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