Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Tune in Murder: Coda (1987)

Coda (Australia, 1987) (AKA "Deadly Possession", "Symphony of Evil")
Rating: ****
Starring: Penny Cook, Arna-Maria Winchester, Liddy Clark

(Wow, took me seven long years to finally see this. The joys of movie hunting!)

Taking some parts Halloween (1978) with the amateur snooping of Nancy Drew and bit of Hitchcockian thrills for good measure, this Made-For-TV Australian thriller succeeds at a lot of things that most of its gorier theatrical or video counterparts normally fail in: direction, style, and quality.

When a student from a nearby music academy was attacked at her apartment and left for dead, a man seen skulking around got involved when he tries to help her, only to be mistaken as the culprit and sparks a brief chase before evading capture. As responding cops swarm the apartment and managed to drive the girl to a nearby hospital, one Kate, neighbor of the attacked victim, finds herself tangled in this crime when she was brought in for questioning. A police drawing was made and she recognizes their suspect as her former-husband, Mike.

Upon after being released, Kate later found her ex-hubby hiding in her apartment, claiming his innocence. Hoping to clear his own name, Mike eventually left to the same hospital the girl was taken, only to find himself under further blame when someone beats him to it, kills the girl, and lead him to the open arms of the police. Believing that the cops got the wrong man, however, Kate curiously looked into the case and soon finds herself the next target of the attacker.

Perhaps I should start off with the only flaw of the movie, which should be fair since the rest of Coda is undeniably great; the film is grounded for realism and devoid of any kind of hamminess, hence it should work pretty well as a thrilling mystery. Sadly, with so little cast to focus on, limited red herrings that aren't that strong, and the clues being too obvious, the whodunit didn't do well.

Thankfully, the direction had us looking into the characters with enough dimensions, fairly paced to give us enough time to both know our might-be victims/suspect and build a brooding sense of suspense which soon escalates into familiar territories. Interesting note is the fact that the main casts are mostly women, all of whom are portrayed to be more than cattle for the slaughter, which may had something to do with the cast having a reasonable amount of control over their roles.

With the main focus being on the plot and its characters, those who are looking for a heavy killcount would be disappointed. I personally didn't mind this since the story was compelling enough to entertain me and the performances of its cast didn't require the distractions of exploitable yet unnecessary murders. In addition, the final third of the film features one of the best cat-and-mouse antic I've seen since the hallway axe murder of Prom Night (1980), involving our lead and villain going through darkened halls and claustrophobic libraries back at the university.

The art and music theme of the story also found its way into production, making great use of classical music to set the mood and enhance situations, as well as some well executed camera and visual work that's honestly simple but fits well nevertheless. A fine example of this would be that one sword murder again, where we see our killer seemingly hovers down a shadowed hallway, motionless and silent until it raises a sword and goes for the kill; it's a genuinely creepy scene and one that is visually impressive and caters well for slasher fans alike.

There isn't much else to say about Coda; it's a beautiful and fun film to watch that didn't resort to nudity, gore, and cheese, something that is a lot to say comparing to most slasher films being released in the late 80s. A must see/own for those who love a simple slasher movie!

1 female thrown through a window, later had her life support turned off
1 female slashed to death with a sword
1 male found frozen in a freezer
1 male killed offcamera
1 female drowned
Total: 5