After her father dies in an eerie accident at the family’s winery, Ellia returns home from the big city to tend to the remaining members of her disaffected family. The death is eventually ruled a homicide, with Ellia’s mother emerging as the prime suspect. Ellia takes matters into her own hands, compelled to discover the true story behind her father’s death. But the family and small-town secrets that emerge are more than she bargained for. Australia’s stunning wine country is the backdrop for this thrilling murder mystery from Director Megan Riakos, starring Les Hill (Underbelly, House Husbands, Wonderland), Roxane Wilson (Stingers, The Alice) and Sarah Bishop (Wham Bam Thank you Ma’am, Skit Box Activewear).
Crushed was written specifically to be my debut feature as a director. I was looking for a story that would embody a strong genre that could be achieved as an independent film, while also allowing me to explore complex relationships and community dynamics in an interesting way.
The films and series that inspired Crushed range from The Killing, Top of the Lake, What lies Beneath, Winter’s Bone, Prisoners, Lantana and what kicked it all off was the amazing doco The Staircase (about a man accused of his wife’s murder). All of these works focus not just on the twists and turns of the plot, but they also develop strong, complex characters that force you to question your own morals and ethics.
Inspired by the mystery thriller genre, I strived to create these same kinds of complex characters. Every single person in Crushed has something to hide. They are all guilty, even if it isn’t of the murder that kicks the film off. But I knew I needed to find a unique and cinematic location to tell this story, somewhere that was attainable on my budget and that’s when I remembered the stunning visual location of my friend’s family vineyard.
The beautiful imagery of winemaking and the community surrounding it served as a strong metaphor for many of the themes of the film. The themes of legacy in family and the legacy of land, together with a nod to the idea that the decisions we make today will affect the future generations, not just our own. Visually there is a strong motif of wine and blood that helps to further this theme as well.
All design aspects of the film helped to serve this earthy quality of the film, the warm tones of the lighting and production design highlight the hot, harsh, drought conditions the vineyard currently suffers. The rich, base tones of the solo cello and the strings featured in the music link to the core human emotions that so many of our characters yearn to scream out but instead bury deep within.
Crushed strives to both entertain the audience, taking them on a thrilling ride towards revealing the identity of the killer while also striking an emotional impact with the audience with the deeply flawed but empathetic characters they meet on the way.