Special screening of The Cost

Actor Damon Hunter (left) and director Matthew Holmes (right) at a screening and Q&A event for new film The Cost at the Memorial Hall in Healesville on October 6. PICTURE: SETH LUKAS HYNES

By Seth Lukas Hynes

On October 6, the Memorial Hall in Healesville hosted a special screening and Q&A event for The Cost, the latest film by director Matthew Holmes.

Aaron (Damon Hunter) and David (Jordan Fraser-Trumble) abduct Troy (Kevin Dee) and bring him to the woods to dispense justice for an old crime, only for their plan to go awry.

The Cost is a taut, harrowing thriller that makes excellent use of its small cast and setting. Holmes doesn’t view The Cost as a horror film – ‘It will take you to the edge of the cliff, but it will not push you over the edge’ – but it’s still a confronting, psychologically disturbing film that examines the brutality normal people are capable of, whether an eye for an eye is truly justice, and how pragmatism can lock you into a horrific situation.

Dee is both pathetic and manipulative as Troy, Hunter delivers an almost scary resolve as Aaron – during the Q&A, Hunter mentioned that he maintained this intensity throughout the production – and Fraser-Tumble conveys David’s growing anxiety over their actions.

The Cost shows Troy’s instigating crime – his assault and murder of Stephanie (Nicole Pastor), who was Aaron’s sister and David’s wife – in flashbacks that, while not particularly graphic, may be triggering to some viewers. These scenes negate all but superficial sympathy for Troy, which highlights Aaron and David’s central moral conflict. The close-up camerawork, as Holmes put it, also ‘claustrophobically kinda traps you with these three characters’ for an intimate view of their psyches. The dialogue feels slightly melodramatic at first, but this aids the narrative: as David questions whether they can go through with their plan and if the trauma from killing Troy will outweigh any retribution, his initial bravado dissolves. Adam is a great illustration of the difference between cold and pragmatic: he appears stoic and bloodthirsty, but he is driven by grief for his sister and a need to protect his family, and he know’s that they’re in too deep to back out now.

The Cost is extremely suspenseful and superbly balances both internal and external conflict: complications emerge in well-foreshadowed but shocking ways, and the tension tightens to excruciating levels in the nerve-shredding climax.

In a fun Q&A after the film, Holmes and Hunter gave thorough insight into the film’s production.

A planned 3-month shoot became a 13-month shoot, partly due to Covid lockdowns. The filming often took place in cold weather and harsh conditions, with Dee ‘barefoot in the woods’ for long stretches. Dee courageously took the brunt, but everyone suffered a little for their art. ‘You get a few bumps and bruises making a film like this,’ Holmes remarked.

Holmes, the cast and crew constantly debated to make sure they don’t go too far or mean-spirited or turn The Cost into an exploitation movie.

Clayton Watson plays Brian, a farmer who throws a wrench in Aaron and David’s plans. Holmes noted that while the shooting script didn’t change much, Watson (who was a late addition to the cast) played Brian significantly funnier than on the page. ‘Casting is fluid. Sometimes it surprises you.’

The Cost will screen at several independent cinemas in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, including Cameo in Belgrave on October 11 and the Mecca Arts Centre in Warburton on October 13, and will be released on DVD, BluRay and streaming services on October 18.

The major cinema franchises have little interest in supporting Australian movies, and an enthralling, well-crafted Australian film like The Cost deserves our support.