In terms of the critical response to his films, blockbuster Australian director Alex Proyas hasn’t had a good run in the last few years. His most recent movie – the 2016 epic Gods of Egypt – got torn to pieces by reviewers. It is currently sitting on a dismal 15% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating.
The movie before that didn’t fare much better: the Nicolas Cage vehicle Knowing, which is sitting on 33%.
In fact, you have to go back 20 years before a film of his is verified fresh. That’s the 1998 science fiction neo-noir Dark City, which Flicks critic Luke Buckmaster recently wrote about, to mark its 20th anniversary.
What better time, then, to revisit Proyas’ earliest works?
It is not widely known that the director’s first feature film – before his breakthrough hit The Crow arrived in 1994 – is a super strange post-apocalyptic movie released in 1989, called Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds. Not much information is known about the film in general, partly because it’s been difficult to track down.
That is about to change, with an upcoming Blu-Ray release to be distributed by Umbrella Entertainment. Known as a “little gem” by some, Proyas cinematic debut has been given a special high-def, 2K restoration.
There is no set release date yet, but a trailer for the Blu-Ray surfaced online this week. Take a look:
Writing on LinkedIn a couple of years ago, James Paterson, the man who was given the task of restoring the film, wrote:
“I feel rather privileged to have worked restoring “Spirits of the Air – Gremlins of the Clouds”, its a film few have ever seen let alone heard of. For me the most haunting but unique charm of this film is the music soundtrack. One which evokes a myriad of emotions and once you’ve heard it, it will never leave you.”
Paterson talks more about the process of restoration in a YouTube video, published by Australian Television Archive.
As for the plot, here’s how the American blog Daily Grind House described it:
“Spirits of the Air is a post-apocalypse film shot in the Australian outback, where all post-apocalypse films with a desert setting should be shot. (And, of course, plenty were!) Opening with a heavily-robed stranger wandering through the desert, the locale is quickly established through the vertically-planted cars, the heavily Christian imagery and the brooding, Tangerine Dream-esque score by Peter Miller. It’s a series of hugely compelling images, and it shows us everything about the world that we need to know – and, indeed, virtually everything we get to know during the course of the film.
The stranger (Norman Boyd) soon arrives at an isolated house in which two siblings live without any contact with others. The heavily made up Betty (Melissa Davis) immediately panics when she sees the intruder, but her brother, the wheelchair-bound Felix (Michael Lake) rushes out to greet him. He immediately passes out, and Felix brings him into their home, giving him a food and the opportunity to bathe.
Introducing himself as Smith, the scrawny young man beneath the robes soon joins the bizarre pair’s household, much to Betty’s chagrin, as she merely squeaks and stares throughout their first awkward meal. Smith, as it turns out, plans to head north through a mountainous region, which he doesn’t really stand a chance of getting beyond. Fortunately, Felix is fascinated by aviation, and with the help of a number of ancient books, he begins preparing a plane to help Smith, though his obsession with flight may be more than Betty can deal with.”