On video

A one-way toboggan-ride to tragedy: `Angel Baby' is commendable for its restraint in the face of limitless opportunities for excess
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The romance at the centre of Angel Baby (rental, Electric Video), an Australian drama which is released straight to video this month, is skew-whiff from the off. Harry (John Lynch) and Kate (Jacqueline McKenzie) meet at a counselling group. These young, unkempt souls are stuffed full of bewildering emotions. Not to mention prescription drugs and voices in the head. One of the first things they do when they get chatting is compare the scars on their wrists - trophies of a shared pain that binds them together. They connect, and launch into one of those love affairs that has "one-way toboggan-ride to tragedy" stamped all over it.

As harrowing as Angel Baby gets, it's nicely leavened by a dry sense of humour and the first-time director Michael Rymer's startling visual sense. Late-night suburban Australia may not seem a particularly apposite landscape through which to express the inner turmoil of these characters, but Rymer gives the starkly lit shopping malls and yawning freeways an eerie quality, delivering the same bleakness that Michael Winterbottom brought to the service stations of the North in Butterfly Kiss.

There can be no better way of capturing an audience's attention than casting John Lynch in a film - when this spindly, jittery actor (Ireland's Crispin Glover?) appears, you couldn't be more intently fixed to the screen if Rymer had personally come to your house, nailed you to the settee and pinned your eyelids open. Here, as in Nothing Personal, he has the intensity of the young Al Pacino in The Panic in Needle Park. In the more risky role, Jacqueline McKenzie captures Kate's egotistical drive without ever indulging herself as an actress. It's a well-judged piece, commendable for its restraint in the face of limitless opportunities for excess.

Other new videos which you won't have seen at a cinema near you include: the delightfully wicked Italian-made horror-comedy The Cemetery Man (rental, Entertainment In Video). Keen horror buffs may have caught the movie on its sole theatrical screening in the UK, at the NFT's Fantasm festival in 1994, under its original title Dellamorte, Dellamore.

Rupert Everett gives a droll performance of near career-saving stoicism and elegance as Dellamorte, a cemetery caretaker who must contend with legions of the living dead trying to drag him into the blazing pit of hell, or something. What could have been a dumb George Romero rip-off is elevated by some spiky comedy - a fusion of Evelyn Waugh and Monty Python, roughly speaking - and some elegiac undercurrents. "At a certain point in your life," Everett complains, "you realise you know more dead people than living ones." Highly recommended.

Finally, while the BBFC decide if Crash really will make us all go bonkers and run each other over, two of David Cronenberg's early films, Rabid and Shivers (pounds 9.99 each, Arrow), are re-released. Hordes of vampiric women tearing into each other's flesh, parasitic phalluses emerging from armpits - take a stroll down memory lane, to the days before Cronenberg was considered a corrupting influence

Ryan Gilbey

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