It Came From Down Under

Rhiannon Irons, a.k.a Ahlephia, here to share with you a special report designed to scare you out of your wits.  I’m waving the Aussie flag proudly today as I take you on a journey into the world of Australian horror movies.  Three films.  Three tales of horror.  Strap yourselves in as I take you into the outback…

Last night, as I laid in bed wondering what my next article for Truly Disturbing could be, I was hit by an epiphany. I am an Australian. I am the Truly Disturbing Australian Correspondent. Why not write a little something about Australian horror films.

From well known movies like Wolf Creek, The Reef and Saw (yes, Saw is an Australian film – the sequels, not so much but the initial film is) to unknowns like Long Weekend, Patrick and Next Of Kin, Australia has produced many fun, fantastic and yes, sometimes creepy horror movies.

While not as big as the US or UK, the Australian film industry can still match wits with the rest of the world. From creature features to serial killers and even the supernatural, Aussie horror has proven time and time again that we can deliver the thrills, chills and scares that match our rival counterparts.

So, if I may, I would like to take you, the loyal readers of Truly Disturbing, on a little journey into the outback. Lock the doors, keep the windows closed and most importantly, don’t scream…

Over the course of my time as a writer for Truly Disturbing I have mentioned a number of Aussie films. Today, I’m going to look at three films that you may, or may not, have heard of before. First up on my agenda is a creature feature not about a killer shark or crocodile, but rather about one very pissed off pig. Ladies and gentlemen, ghouls of all ages, may I present the 1984 movie Razorback.

Razorback is based on a novel by Peter Brennan and was adapted to the screen by writer Everett De Roche, who also wrote Long Weekend ・ another Aussie horror creature feature. This film has its fair share of critics and the acting isn’t exactly Oscar winning, however it did well because it wasn’t the usual creature feature that we’ve come to expect. We’ve seen sharks and crocs done to death but not a wild boar and that’s what makes Razorback such a fun film.

The basic storyline is as follows: A wild pig running loose in the outback, killing and devouring people. Doesn’t sound that exciting, does it? In fact, it sounds kind of ridiculous. (Am I the only one picturing Pumba from The Lion King right now?) But combine that with the boar killing a young boy and his grandfather being accused of murdering him, a missing journalist and a vengeful husband. Now it sounds interesting. (Fun Fact: A full-sized, fully animatronic model razorback was built at a cost of $250,000 and is seen for only one second)

One thing I really liked about this movie was how we bounced around between the different characters, causing doubt that, if we found ourselves in that situation, we would be able to trust them. They all seemed to house a hidden agenda, but for me, the characters of Benny and Dicko stole the show. They’re colourful characters that are the reason why Beth Winters (the journalist) is killed by the wild boar. They attacked her before leaving her for dead all because she was investigating the hunting of Australian wildlife to be used as animal food, processed in a large factory.

A tale of man vs. beast like nothing you’ve ever seen before, Razorback did considerably well in Australia, grossing just over $800,000 at box office. (Fun Fact: It was given a limited release theatrically in the US in November of ’84 and grossed over $150,000 at box office)

Released onto DVD in September 2005, Razorback contains bonus features including a 70 minute featurette called ‘Jaws On Trotters’, four deleted scenes with more gore, theatrical trailers for Roadgames (Starring Jamie Lee Curtis) and The Chain Reaction as well as it’s own theatrical trailer, photo gallery and an audio featurette interview with the star Gregory Harrison.

Do I recommend viewing Razorback? Of course I do. It’s fun, it’s gritty, it’s Aussie and it has a giant, highly irritated pig. Razorback, while not award winning, certainly has stamped its place in the heart of Australian horror. A perfect way to kill a couple of hours one lazy Saturday afternoon.

Lake Mungo is a film about grief and revelation and succeeds not only as a portrait of a family in mourning but also as a chilling ghost story. This film proves that even a simple photo featuring what appears to be a paranormal apparition can give, even the toughest person alive, chills down the spine.

Filmed in 2008, Lake Mungo is about sixteen year old Alice Palmer and her family. Alice drowns while swimming in a local dam. When her body is recovered, the coroner passes the verdict of her death being of accidental drowning, and her family buries her. And that’s where the problems begin. The family begins to experience a series of strange and inexplicable events that seem to be centred around their home. Profoundly unsettled, the Palmers seek the help of psychic and parapsychologist, Ray Kemeny. Ray discovers that Alice led a secret, double life. A series of clues lead the family to Lake Mungo where Alice’s secret past emerges.

A chilling ghost story, combined with mystery with hints of a thriller, Lake Mungo is, in my opinion, one of Australia’s best films to date. Creep factor is high, suspense is nail-biting and what I found most terrifying is this movie felt so real. There was no over acting, there was nothing that jumped out at the screen aiming for a sudden and cheap scare. It was gritty and it was the first time in years that I was pleasantly scared by a movie.

Following in the footsteps of The Blair Witch Project, Lake Mungo is by far the best horror ‘mockumentary’ of the last decade. And I will go on record to say it’s better than Paranormal Activity, which I found not only tame but also dull. The downplayed, monotone performances of the actors is very effective. The naturalism they maintain only adds more edge and anxiety to the story, and speaking of story, Lake Mungo has a great one. An unsettling mystery, full of lies and secrets all wrapped up with a nice big paranormal thriller bow. It’s a rare that a film causes me so many chills and goosebumps. Lake Mungo is a film that you have to see. It has so many twist and turns that it keeps everyone’s attention. (Fun Fact: There is an apparent remake coming out by the same people that bought us The Ring. But like The Ring, nothing will beat the original)

So if you’re in the mood to be scared by something supernatural, check out Lake Mungo and judge for yourself just how scary an Australian ghost story is.

The Loved Ones is a 2009 film written and directed by Sean Byrne and stars Xavier Samuel (of Twilight fame) and Robin McLeavy. Want to see how far some Aussie girls will go to get a date to the prom? This film shows off the killer, sadistic side of Australian horror.

After Brent Mitchell (Samuals) crashes his car into a tree that kills his father, he is overcome by grief and guilt. However, it’s his girlfriend, Holly, who keeps him sane. Not only is she beautiful and his girlfriend, but she’s also his date to the upcoming prom.

Lola Stone (McLeavy) is a quiet, shy girl who doesn’t have a date to the prom and, with a hopeful heart, asks Brent. He rejects her as politely as one can but Lola isn’t happy with that. Hours before the dance, Lola kidnaps Brent and upon awakening finds himself in a nightmare. He’s prom king at a macabre, sadistic dance where he is the entertainment. (Fun Fact: In Australia we don’t use the term prom but rather it’s called ‘formal’ nor do we have a prom king or queen)

Props go to Robin McLeavy who studied for the role as Lola by watching Natural Born Killers and Misery. And on a side note from me to you, she makes Kathy Bates in Misery look like a Teddy Bear. Truth be told, the storyline is kind of weak, but McLeavy’s performance (and a pre-Twilight Samuals) more than make up for the fact that this is a pure ‘he rejected me so I’m going to kill him’ storyline.

Most of the violence in this film is off camera, however at times it can be quite bloody (and I do mean bloody – lots and lots of blood) and disturbing to watch especially when Brent makes a break for it, trying desperately to get away from Lola and her father. Oh, and just to mention, there’s also a pit of cannibals who are past victims of Lola and her dad. Want to know more? You’ll just have to experience this one for yourself.

The Loved Ones is a combination of comedic horror and torture porn but the two styles blend rather well. High marks to director Sean Byrne for getting it right and making this film not only watchable but enjoyable too.

So there you have it. Three Australian movies covering different aspects of the horror genre. Creature feature, supernatural/paranormal and serial killers. Each film giving audiences chills and thrills while showing off the deadly and dark side of Australia while letting our minds linger with fear. And I bet after reading this, you’ll never look at a side of bacon in the same way again.

After all, isn’t our love of horror driven by our fears and isn’t it fear that makes the perfect horror movie?

Like what you see? Be sure to also visit Pissed Off Geek too for more news and reviews with a horrific edge. To stay up to date with the latest horror news and reviews from the site be sure to "like" Truly Disturbings's Facebook page and following us on Twitter!

  1 comment for “It Came From Down Under

  1. January 5, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    OK I seriously need to see these films!!

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