Film Review: Offing David (2008)

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Offing David is a curious little film in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’s an über low budget Australian film from 2008 which certainly looks and feels like a low budget Australian film from 2008. It comes off a little like someone’s student film managed to get a release. None of this is meant as an insult of course, but it’s worth knowing going in. On the same night as they’re throwing a party at their share-house, Matt (Adam J. Yeend) and Adam (Richie Harkham) carry out the grizzly task of killing their mutual enemy David (Nathaniel Buzolic). As the guests arrive, with David’s body carefully hidden away the unlikely murderers have to try and save the situation, as their carefully laid out plan begins to spin out of control.

A low budget film always falls back on the quality of the writing and the strength of the performances, unfortunately this debut effort from director Jeff Bays can’t boast to be saved by either one of them, in terms of acting and directing it seems painfully obvious that this was the project of a group of rookies, but before getting to the negatives, there are quite a few positives that deserve a shout-out. There is a lot to appreciate here; it was the first screen appearance of Nathaniel Buzolic and Adam J. Yeend who have since gone on to bigger and better things: Buzolic has a role on The Vampire Diaries and Yeend went on to produce the independent film Lust for Love and appear in An American Piano which screened at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Brendan Clearkin holds himself well with what he’s given; a philosophy lecturer who’s intelligent enough to figure out that something sinister is going on, he gives what’s probably the film’s best performance. Asha Kuerten is also worth mentioning as Adam and Matt’s flatmate, she doesn’t get a whole lot to do but she does manage to convince with the time she gets on screen. The score by Portuguese composer João Camacho is fairly good and most important of all it doesn’t outstay its welcome, the whole film is only seventy-two minutes long which is exactly the length it needed to be. 

The big positive is that there’s an obvious attempt to tap into a Hitchcock style of mystery and suspense, there are a number visual nods to a number of Hitch’s classics and this is the kind of suspense thriller that he liked to play around with. There’s also an obvious love of cinema history running through the film, the Hitchcock homage is obvious but it also has characters discussing Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and a vintage poster of the original Alien is visible as a bit of set dressing. It’s clear this wasn’t just a thrown together project by someone who thought they’d try their hand at filmmaking, it was obviously made by a true cinephile.

But unfortunately ‘low budget’ describes most of this film. It has the visual quality of a student film, admittedly with some fairly good cinematography. The performances are adequate at best, they’re exactly what you’d expect with a film such as this which isn’t saying a whole lot. Finally while the story has high-minded ambitions, there doesn’t seem to be much depth below the surface, it has no ideas better than the kind thought up by a first year philosophy student who once heard the word ‘Nietzsche’: Is it ever right to kill? Could society function without murder? They even mention the concept of the ubermensch  at one point, these aren’t bad ideas, but if you’re going to include them you’d better have a compelling reason to put them in there.

It’s always good to see an Australian film made with an obvious love of cinema history and which it’s clear the actors had a fun time making it and while the story does proceed with a degree of suspense, the film’s painfully low budget and independent roots are very visible. It’s impossible to deny that Offing David does have a certain B-Movie-ish charm to it, but at the end of the day this review is designed to tell you whether or not it’s worth your time to track it down and see it, and unfortunately the answer is no.

Offing David is available to buy on Amazon.

Editor’s note: This review has been edited from the original published review. This review, like all film reviews, is an opinion piece.

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