Horror in the land down under: Part One

Welcome, welcome one and all to my 100th POST! I can’t believe it, break out the red streamers and black balloons and lets get into some red wine and a couple of cheeky shots of absinthe… But remember what rolls at the party stays at the party!

It occurred to me not so long ago, that my posts to date have been very overseas centric. Which is Ok, but caused me to reflect on the state of horror films here in my home continent of Australia. Yes, the sun burnt country, land of desolate deserts, forests full of inbreeds and the most poisonous beasties per capita in the world. I have done a little digging and am bringing you Part One of ‘An overview of horror in the land down under, an insiders perspective.’ The benevolent and immeasurable blogster  B_Sol over at The Vault of Horror has kindly offered to write Part Two: ‘An overview of horror in the land down under outsiders perspective.’ In honour of this being the 100th post on Musings Across a Continuum B-Sol will post his part tomorrow at The Vault of Horror.

So lets be clear we are talking films, made, directed or produced by Australians (got to claim what we can!).

Australia’s horror film journey has been a short but diverse one. According to various writers the Aussie film industry didn’t really hit its straps until the early to late seventies producing films that highlighted the isolation and potential paranoia and danger of the outback. What could be Australia’s first ‘real’ horror film is ‘Night of Fear‘ directed by Terry Bourke. The film was initially banned for indecency (toot toot!) and it detailed the story of a woman stranded in the outback, terrorized by a loner.

In 1974 Peter Weir’s film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock‘, gave us a haunting tale of  a group of young girls getting lost at a nature reserve, entranced by a supernatural force. The film has an underlying sexual foreboding, a brooding menace as one of the main characters gets lost in the wilderness (are we sensing a theme?). Again we see the bush, oppressive and mysterious, causing disorientation and confusion. The film is based on the actual disappearance of schoolgirls on St Valentines day in 1900. I remember going on school excursions to Hanging Rock and secretly hoping someone would go missing! Yes as a child I had evil potential!

Picnic At Hanging Rock

Picnic At Hanging Rock

1978 saw the release of the psychic thriller ‘Patrick‘ directed by Richard Franklin, it depicts the killer as comatose throughout the film. Leaving the audience to experience a series of events, telekinetically carried out by the villain. The story was written by ex-pat American Everett de Roche, who went on to scribe many Australian horror films throughout the eighties including Razorback (1984).

Razorback takes advantage of Australia’s reputation for dangerous beasts lurking around the corner, detailing a terrifying tale of a giant wild boar who is killing people in the outback. Swine Flu anyone?  Another film which takes advantage of Australia’s isolated outback towns is ‘Outback Vampires‘ (1987). Known as ‘The Wicked’ when released in the USA, directed by Collin Eggleston; the film has the hilarious plot about a group of Transylvanian Vamp’s who decide to move to a small isolated country town in out back Australia! If that’s not one the most hysterical concepts I’ve heard in a while I don’t know what is! Vampires in the outback, can’t you just see them climbing Uluru/Ayers Rock… at night!

Razorback

Razorback

The final highlight of the eighties in Australian horror is the film ‘Dead Calm‘ (1989), starring famous Aussie ginger Nicole Kidman and the scrumptious Billy Zane, directed by Phillip Noyce. This nautical psychological thriller was potentially the last real success within the Australian horror genre leaving a gaping hole during the nineties.

Slicing into cinema’s in 2000 was the film ‘Cut‘ a film about filming a horror film (yep!). Where the cast are slowly picked of by a deranged killer with an extremely large serrated knife. Directed by Kimble Rendal and starring Australian pop princess Kylie Minougue (vom!), the film also starred Molly Ringwald.

However the ‘naughties’ also brought with them a return to form for Australian horror films.  ‘Wolfcreek‘ (2005) the story of a group of backpackers who get lost and are slowly maimed, killed and tortured by a slack jawed yokel with a taste for terror. The film is the highest grossing Australian horror film taking $16 million dollars at the US box office. Rounding out the latest Aussie Horror offerings are ‘Rogue‘ (2007), Greg Mclean’s tale of the giant crocodile chomping its way through tourists… How fast can you swim indeed! Also ‘Dying Breed‘ (2008) which got a look in at the After Dark Horrorfest 2009, is based on the true story of Alexander Pearce, a convict who in 1822 escaped a prison colony in Tasmania and ate all his mates on the trek to freedom (he did this again in 1824 and was subsequently hanged!). The film tells the story of hikers who are looking for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, the unlucky crew come across Pearce’s inbred relatives who have carried on their ancestors cannibalistic ways!  Just quietly, I should mention here that the ‘Saw’ franchise was created by Australian’s but produced in the USA, but we’ll keep that under our Akubra hats!

Dying Breed

Dying Breed

So what now for Australian horror? ‘Daybreakers‘ (2010) the apocalyptic vampire flick, starring the ever beige Ethan Hawke and hometown carnivore Sam Neil; is to be directed by Aussie’s Michael and Peter Spierig, is a Australian USA collaboration, being filmed here in Australia, so I’m going to claim this one!

The above is not by any means an exhaustive list, I have detailed below my sources. However for me it is a point of curiosity why more Australian horror are not being made, the continent is rife with tales of terror such as Alexander Pearce. Gothic stories that send chills down your spine and the ever present tyranny of distance creating horrifying myths of capture, isolation, madness and lets not forget the giant croc’s, boars, snakes and spiders!

Ms Harker

P.S If your keen on checking more Aussie Horror and Cult films a documentary ‘Not Quite Hollywood‘ has started screening in the USA.

Rogue

Rogue

Sources:

http://horror.about.com/od/foreignhorrormovies/a/australia.htm

http://www.tabula-rasa.info/AusHorror/OzHorrorFilms1.html

http://www.tabula-rasa.info/AusHorror/OzHorrorFilms2.html

http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2008/10/news-phd-student-unearths-australian.html

http://cci.edu.au/about/media/phd-student-unearths-australian-horror-films

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6 Responses to “Horror in the land down under: Part One”

  1. Jeanette Says:
    August 9th, 2009 at 7:14 am

    I just heard about that Ozploitation film on Fearnet the other day and will definitely be checking it out.

  2. Ms Harker Says:
    August 9th, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Glad to hear it. Tarantino had a hand in producing it I think, he also appears in it. Its got a lot of hairy Aussies running amok, chasing half naked chicks, driving massive cars and some scary beasts thrown in for good measure!

  3. CRwM Says:
    August 9th, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Happy 100th post! I look forward to the next hundred, and the next hundred and . . . you get the idea.

    And how could we forget Long Weekend and its remake? Perhaps in somewhere in the next 100 posts.

  4. Cortez the Killer Says:
    August 10th, 2009 at 4:50 am

    I was going to post and mention the Not Quite Hollywood doc but you closed out with its mention. I will definitely be checking this out! Great post and I’ll be adding a few of these to the ol’ Netflix queue. Congrats on your 100th post!

  5. Ms Harker Says:
    August 10th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks! I am going to try and pursue some more Aussie horror in the future, will look out for Long Weekend.

  6. Ms Harker Says:
    August 10th, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for the well wishes, glad to hear your going to check out some of the Aussie horror goodness!

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