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CRASH TEST (director/writer: Sam Voutas; screenwriter: based on the short film Crash Test by Sam Voutas; editor: Sam Voutas; cast: Katrina J. Kiely (Cindy Geeds), Dave Peterson (Lawyer), Bruce Solibakke (47109), Steve Van Spall (Limbo Jack), Sam Voutas (Sala/171096), Melanie Ansley (Valeriy/Abby), Louise Heseltine (Young Val), Clive Ansley (Mr. Geeds, CEO of Motorkore), Xian Warner (Surgeon); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Melanie Ansley; SRS Cinema; 2003-Australia)
“Imaginative fantasy film about how to beat the system.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It began as a 16mm short film, but the low-budget indie film I saw was on DVD and was shot on digital video–it was filmed in de-saturated color, meaning there was some color washed into the black and white photography. Sam Voutas is writer-director, editor and star of this imaginative fantasy film about how to beat the system. It’s framed around a sugar-coated car commercial delivered by Cindy Geeds (Katrina J. Kiely), the wife of the CEO of a long-established big car company called Motorkore, who voices complete satisfaction her company has the ability to improve safety standards to make car riding some day be completely safe by crash tests using dummies and only asks for the public’s trust. It turns out Motorkore abducts and surgically transforms people into crash test dummies, believing humans are better suited to give them a fuller report on such things as pain. When writer Sala (Sam Voutas) has a book coming out that will expose Motorkore for using corpses from 1922 to 1925 as CT dummies, he’s abducted and surgically transformed into one–given the name 171096. Not able to escape, he learns from another CT dummy of 21 years, 47109 (Bruce Solibakke), his cell-mate, that no one can escape unless they can retain their memories and never lose sight of their true identity. He teaches Sala how to beat the system and possibly survive a perfect crash, but knows it’s too late for him to be saved.

The film opens with escapee Sala turning up at the home of his long-time girlfriend Abby (Melanie Ansley) and telling her his strange tale about his plight as a human CT dummy, as she’s mystified over his disappearance a year ago. The film then goes into flashback to tell how Sala became a captive of the big corporation because he didn’t sell out and take their hush money to quash his expose book. The film’s producer Melanie Ansley is in a double role as she also plays Motorkore crash test dummy supervisor Valeriy, who was involved in a car crash that disfigured her and has had a number of facial plastic surgeries to look like her company recruiter and conceal her identity, and now believes so much in the company’s test program to make car travel as safe as possible that she doesn’t even question the moral implications. Valeriy, appearing always with a bandaged head, uses psychological torture to dehumanize her subjects even further in order to make them willing subjects of her company’s fascist experiments.

It’s certainly a different type of sci-fi car story, perhaps in the Kafka-esque or Cronenberg mold, a fantastic one about what happens after a car crashes–something that’s quite common in modern-day life–and how the car manufacturers are deceptive and can turn ruthless when a lone citizen tries to take them on. The film is clearly on the side of the slaves to rebel against the system and not take their shit anymore, even if offered material comforts and security. Its narrative borders on the surreal and fantastic, and is thought-provoking as it questions how easy it seems to be for corporations to turn us all into robots–even if they are trying to make life better for the public, they may still act in an amoral way to achieve their aims. It might seem like a comedy, but by the conclusion the film becomes increasingly dark. It was filmed on location in Melbourne and in the Little Desert in Victoria.

Filmmaker Voutas has said in an interview that the two films that most influenced him in making Crash Test were George Miller’s original Mad Max and Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man. REVIEWED ON 12/17/2005 GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”