Lead Me Astray (2015): A Feral Horror Debut

Producing a full feature psychological horror film with an approximate budget of $10,000 AUD ($7,422.95 USD) can be a tricky endeavor. However, Australian thriller Lead Me Astray accomplishes this and more in its 90-minute runtime. The movie captivates the audience with the mystery surrounding Alexis (Jace Pickard), a veterinary student with a dark past. As the film continues, an intriguing story of love and betrayal unravels. With clever use of flashbacks, Lead Me Astray holds together well as the plot gains momentum, revealing answers to well thought out mysteries along the way. When everything comes full circle, you are left with an unforeseeable twist just before the credits roll.

Earning a 7.9 rating out of 10 on IMDb, Lead Me Astray is the horror debut of  Australian indie filmmaker Tom Danger. In creating Lead Me Astray, Danger took inspiration from low-budget guerrilla style Australian films of the 1970s and 1980s while borrowing elements from films by horror legends John Carpenter and Dario Argento.

Aside from working on an entirely self-funded budget, Danger and his film crew encountered many other hurdles, such as necessary rewrites, the relocation of a major onset film shoot, uncooperative weather and equipment failure, as well as tight time crunches. Taking these unexpected problems in stride and remaining thankful for everything that went smoothly during production, Danger and his crew persevered with their passion for the arts. After screening at several film festivals, Lead Me Astray was officially released in October of 2015.

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The film opens with a bloodied man (Pickard) making his way through the woods before flashing back to the office of child psychiatrist Dr. Gene Seward (Tim Page). who has foster child Alexis Willard (Addi Craig) under his care. The two foster parents seeking to adopt Alexis are warned by Seward that the child has been trained and conditioned and may exhibit violent tendencies. The child is revealed to be the bloody man from the beginning, now in present day.

Later as a young adult enrolled in veterinarian school, Alexis has a chance encounter with a gang member. This leads to a series of events including the abduction of his girlfriend Lacey (Alannah Robertson). In order to save Lacey, Alexis sets out to find the men responsible for her disappearance, forcing him to come face to face with his dark and mysterious past.

Along with a strategically crafted story, outstanding performances help drive this film. Pickard subtly portrays a character that is deeply troubled, displaying a somewhat callous persona that has something oddly missing one can’t quite put into words. Robertson is great in her roll, portraying the innocent girlfriend who is concerned about certain personality traits that begin showing themselves in her protective significant other. Page’s performance as a concerned psychiatrist reminiscent of Donald Pleasence’s iconic role as Dr. Loomis in the classic Halloween. Another notable performance is Addi Craig as the troubled and semi-traumatized younger Alexis.

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Final Thoughts:

For a full feature low-budget indie film, Lead Me Astray is a great story crafted with passion and ingenuity. Despite his lack of funds and unexpected dilemmas, Danger managed to produce an intriguing and entertaining film with the help of his cast and crew. Although Alexis’ abilities remain with him through adulthood without explanation, some graphic scenes add to the intended savage aspect of the film. Lead Me Astray may not be on par with studio films backed by deep pockets. However, with how much was accomplished with so little resources and a twist of an ending that leaves you stunned, Lead Me Astray is worthy viewing for any film connoisseur who appreciates the art of quality storytelling.

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