It Came From Down Under: Creature Features

G’Day folks!  My name is Rhiannon Irons, a.k.a Ahlephia, and I’m going to be your guide for today.  Just a reminder, please keep your arms and legs inside the boat at all times (and you only get one chance to complain about the flies) because today, we’re on the hunt for some big beasties.  So say it with me: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…Horror, Horror, Horror!

Earlier this month, I wrote a little article reviewing three Australian horror movies.  One supernatural tale (Lake Mungo), one serial killer style film (The Loved Ones) and one creature feature (Razorback).  Today, I dive into the pool of killer animals to bring you three more terrifying films from Down Under.  So strap yourselves in as we head up north for our first creature feature.

 

Black Water (2007)

At some point in my writing career for Truly Disturbing you would have seen me mention this suspense filled movie about a group of tourists (two female, one male) travelling in northern Australia when their tour boat is attacked by a crocodile.  Today, I get into the specifics about what makes this film such an amazing Australian horror movie.

After their boat is attack, they retreat to the safety of a tree upon realising that a crocodile has indeed attacked.  The tour guide is missing (his body pops up a little later, parts missing) so it’s left to our tourists to survive.  For the next two days, our trapped tourists are stranded in a tree under the watchful eye of the crocodile.  Any attempts that they make to retrieve their over turned boat results in the crocodile lunging in an attack.

During the night, the lone male decides to brave the waters seeing as the boat is now resting against the tree just below them.  He climbs down, scanning the water, searching for any sign of the crocodile.  He reaches out for the boat when suddenly it appears, snapping at him, grabbing him and evidently kills him.  Which of course sends the two women into a frenzied panic state.

The girls decide eventually that no one is coming for them so one of them tries to make a break for the boat which has now drifted away.  Of course this doesn’t end well and she ends up attacked but manages to get back to the tree.  The remaining girl decides to take on the croc and winds up being attacked also, however she manages to survive her injuries, gets into the boat with her friend, who has died from her injuries, and as the credits roll we see her paddling the boat out of the mangroves.

I won’t lie, this film can be slow at times.  I mean, most of the film consists of three people stuck in a tree.  But what it lacks in plot, it more than makes up for it in suspense and realism.  The crocodile is not CGI but rather real life footage that is integrated into the movie alongside the actors.  (Fun Fact: Crocodiles study the habits of their prey, learning where they go and what they do, before they attack)

If you’re after a creature feature that delivers the same style of suspense that Jaws did, then Black Water is for you.  Tense, unnerving and truly disturbing, it stars Aussie comedian Ben Oxenbould as the ill fated tour guide and Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody and Andy Rodoreda (who you can also see in the 2011 horror movie The Tunnel) as the tourists.

How do I rank Black Water?  For authenticity, I give it a ten.  Real crocs equals real fear.  For storyline and entertainment values, I give it a five.  I love suspense more than gore, but sometimes too much suspense can equal boring.  At times, that’s what happened to Black Water.

Rating: 7/10

 

Rogue (2007)

2007 seemed to be the year that crocs rule as Black Water wasn’t the only croc film released.  Rogue, starring Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, John Jarratt (of Wolf Creek fame) and Sam Worthington was also released that year.

Rogue is about an American travel writer, Pete McKell (Vartan), who joins a group of holiday-makers on a river cruise through the waters of Kakadu National Park.

Initially Pete clashes with their tour captain, Kate (Radha Mitchell), a feisty young woman who assumes he is just another ‘city-slicker’ in search of a quick thrill.  After a day of watching crocodiles ‘perform’ for the tourists, a distress flare is spotted by one of the tourists on the boat.  Despite the protests from the other tourists, Kate steers the boat into unexplored territory.  They discover a secluded lake but terror soon strikes when their craft receives a powerful blow from beneath the murky depths and begins to sink.  With little choice, she beaches the vessel on the closest dry land, which happens to be a tidal island (Fun Fact: A tidal island is a lot like a sand bank – it appears and disappears with the tide).  As the waters rise, it becomes apparent that they’re not alone and fear strikes in the form of a ‘rogue’ crocodile.

Based on local knowledge of large crocodiles in the Northern Territory, Rogue took a real bite out of B-grade reptilian movies, delivering fear as a 7 metre crocodile (that’s approx. 23 feet) acts as the aggressor, killing numerous members of the cast.  (Fun Fact: While 7 metres does seem like unlikely, it’s not unusual for crocodiles to grow that big)

Unlike Black Water, Rogue relies on CGI to create the crocodile.  At times, it looks so real and it’s fantastic.  Other times, it’s faker than Kim Kardashian’s wedding.

I’ll be honest when I say that there were some things about this film that bug the hell out of me.  For starters, when Kate and her tourists see the flare and follow it into the uncharted lake, there is no sign of a boat or bodies.  Now, while crocodiles are known for not eating their prey right away, there is no way in hell that a croc would capsize a boat of ten people and then hide all the bodies underwater, waiting for the other people to get there.  So, where did the distress flare come from?

Also, Kate is attacked by the croc, dragged underwater in a death roll.  I’m not disputing that people can survive the initial death roll, however they succumb to their injuries and often die from blood loss.  But Kate survives not only the death roll, but being carried to the crocodile’s lair.  She is weakened but somehow survives the movie.

And finally, at the end it comes down to Vartan vs. the croc.  Vartan is armed with a stick, his hand bleeding from a previous bite.  The croc lunges at him, jaws wide open and Vartan pokes it under the jaw on the soft underbelly, the stick piercing through the skin and it dies.  Then we go to a long shot of the croc and Vartan only to see that the small stick has miraculously turned into a large pointed log.  Surely I don’t have to explain the issues I have with this.

I know you’re probably sitting their saying “It’s only a movie,” and normally I would agree with you.  But when it comes to creature features, authenticity is always scarier.

Now that I’ve said that, how to I rate Rogue?  I don’t rate it as highly as Black Water when it comes to authenticity, however as far as entertainment value is concern, this is better.  Action packed, more victims (let’s face it, why else do we love horror) but it’s the faults that cause this film to fall short.  Authenticity: 6.  Entertainment Value: 6

Rating: 6/10

 

The Reef (2010)

Shark films are always compared to Jaws.  And so far nothing has lived up to the sheer terror that Jaws delivered.  Until now.  Enter the 2010 Aussie movie, The Reef.

With the tagline of ‘The Scariest Shark Thriller Since Jaws‘ adoring the movie poster, The Reef took a big chance and surprisingly delivered, providing thrills, chills and made a splash, proving to everyone that shark movies can still be serious.

The storyline is as follow: Five friends take a yacht out onto open waters, determined to deliver it further up north on the Queensland coast.  It’s all fun and games until the tide goes out and the yacht hits a reef, causing it to capsize and ripping a large hole in the bottom.

Huddled together atop the capsized vessel, Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling from Terra Nova) decides that the best course of action is to make a swim for Turtle Island.  Famous last words.  Three of them eagerly jump into the water, while Kate and Warren (Zoe Naylor and Kieran Darcy-Smith) stay behind.  Kate then changes her mind and swims out to Luke, Susie and Matt, deciding to take her chances and swim rather than being set adrift in the ocean.

The movie then proceeds to follow the four that swim out (we see Warren again for a brief moment as something splashes around the boat ・ then we don’t see him again for the rest of the film) to sea.  Luke seems to know the waters well and acts like he knows what he’s doing.  But alas, what was suppose to be a three hour swim, has turned into much longer.  It’s hard to keep your bearings when you’re surrounded by nothing but ocean.

Then something splashes the water, causing Luke, who conventionally took googles with him, to search the water.  He laughs and tells everyone that it was a dolphin.  Then another fin appears.  Thinking it was another dolphin, the drifters don’t seem that worried.  But as the fin gets closer, Luke realises that it’s a different shape and goes underwater for a better look.  His fears are confirmed.  It’s a Great White Shark.

From there, it’s a battle to survive, not only the elements, but also the shark that seems to be stalking them, picking them off one by one.

The first attack was predictable, however still surprisingly.  I knew it was coming, yet I still jumped.  The shark severs Matt’s leg.  Matt, realising that he can’t swim and that he would only be leading the shark to the others, selflessly sacrifices himself.  Susie blames Luke for Matt’s death (Matt is her husband) and continues to whine the whole time.  Personally, and this is terrible I know, I was cheering when the shark devoured her next.

The end is as tense and spine chilling as one can get.  A race between man and fish for a small rock island.  Only one will win.

The Reef, like Black Water, uses real footage of a Great White. (Not surprising seeing as it was made by the same people who bought us Black Water)  However unlike Black Water, The Reef is fast paced, but it doesn’t skimp on the suspense, which is still high and nail-biting.

Now what may be surprising to some readers is that The Reef is actually based on real life events.  In 1983, three young people had their boat capsized by a wave and decided to swim for shore.  However, they were stalked by a Tiger Shark which claimed the lives of two of them.  The shark was attacking the final man, when a fishing boat came to his rescue.  There’s a plaque in memoriam for the victims in the Port of Townsville.  (Fun Fact: The way Matt dies in this movie is actually the way one of the real life victims perished – you can find all the information about the real life incident here)

Is The Reef as good as Jaws?  Don’t be silly.  Nothing will ever be as good as Jaws.  But as far as shark movies go, this is better than anything that’s come out since Jaws.  Authenticity is high, however the chances of encountering a Great White in the Great Barrier Reef is slim to none.  The waters are too hot, not to mention that it’s home to Tiger sharks who notoriously don’t get along with any other species of shark.  As for the Entertainment Value of the film.  High.  Very high.  The tension was off the charts, the acting was brilliant, the storyline moved at an acceptable pace which in turn makes the film very believable.

Rating: 9/10

So there you have it.  Three creature features that prey on the fears of being ripped apart by predators, all created by Australians.

So next time you find yourself wanting a good scare, but can’t be bothered sitting through a sub-par creature feature, why not take a trip Down Under.  We know what really scares you…

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  2 comments for “It Came From Down Under: Creature Features

  1. January 18, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    Another great article babe! I have heard of these films but I have yet to see them. Now thanks to your article I really want to see what I’ve been missing! Great job again!

    • January 18, 2012 at 4:09 AM

      Thank you so very much, sweetie. I’m glad you enjoyed the read and I’m overjoyed that now you want to view these films. I look forward to hearing what you think about them 🙂

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