Wolf Creek is the latest horror film franchise getting a TV series treatment; the exemplar of “Ozsploitation” will be premier this Thursday, May 12th as a 6-part series on the Australian streaming service Stan. Like the films Wolf Creek and Wolf Creek 2, director Greg McLean is helming the series, described as a both a “drama” and a “psychological thriller.” Venture partners Nine and Fairfax Media claim the series is scarier than the films!
With the excitement surrounding the Wolf Creek series at a fever pitch, it seemed like an appropriate moment to celebrate some other examples of Australian’s best horror movies. Below, in no particular order, are my 10 favorites from the land Down Under. Throw another shrimp on the barbie and get ready for some bloody good times!
The Loved Ones (2009)
Black comedy and gruesome horror collide in The Loved Ones; this film is not for the squeamish sporting FX that are absolutely disgusting—very hyper-realistic depictions of extreme mutilation. When young Brent declines a prom invite from mousey Lola, he sets off an unimaginably twisted chain of events. The tortures Brent endures go far beyond the suffering of your average horror movie victim, and just when it seems like things couldn’t possibly get any worse, they do—much worse. Jilted Lola and her doting father make one of the most unsettling and deranged duos in all of horror. Fans of extreme horror should consider The Loved Ones another absolute must-see.
The Babadook (2014)
This story of a single mother, her rambunctious son, and a dark and nebulous presence with a sinister agenda is one of the scariest films ever produced. Believe me, it takes a lot to creep out this jaded old gore-hound, but The Babadook instills a sense of dread that’s physically palpable. I felt like that little boy, cowering in a corner, as evil forces beyond my understanding manifest around me. In addition to being unnerving as hell, The Babadook is a poignant and intelligent exploration of grief and depression.
Lake Mungo (2008)
Lake Mungo is one of the most effective horror “Mockumentaries” ever produced; everything about it feels real, making it effective and psychologically unnerving. When 16-year-old Alice Palmer drowns while on vacation, her family begins to suspect that her death was foretold. In the months that follow, dark secrets are revealed as clues materialize. While the entire film is chilling, the final few minutes hit like a gut punch. Intelligent, compelling, and eerily beautiful, Lake Mungo chronicles one family’s extremely unique grieving process.
Snowtown (aka The Snowtown Murders) (2011)
Based on an actual crime spree that shocked the nation (dubbed the “Bodies-in-Barrels-Murders”), the Australian film The Snowtown Murders is the most arresting and disturbing film on this list. Between the sex abuse, animal abuse, and realistic portrayal of abject poverty in the community of Adelaide, it’s impossible to experience this film without being profoundly affected. Daniel Henshall is brilliant as the personable and manipulative sociopath John Bunting and Lucas Pittaway is gut-wrenching as his submissive protégé Jamie Vlassakis. Straight up, most mainstream movie-goers simply won’t have the stomach for a film like Snowtown. Of those who can handle the brutality, many won’t have the patience to take this movie all the way to the end. Those who do will never forget it—though they may wish they could.
Dying Breed (2008)
In addition to being one of Australia’s best horror movies, Dying Breed is also one of the greatest films ever about cannibalism; it’s also proof that isolated, inbred communities of Hillbillies are not a strictly American phenomena. A quartet of adventurers and conservationists in Tasmania cross paths with descendants of a flesh-eating 19th-century fugitive called “The Pie Man”, a reimagining of real-life cannibal and prison escapee Alexander Pearce. Dying Breed will please fans of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel, but it’s something altogether unique and terrifying, with one of the scariest “creepy kids” in all of horror.
Billed as “Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead”, Wyrmwood is one of the most satisfying of Australia’s recent horror releases, with a throwback aesthetic fans of 1970’s grindhouse and exploitation cinema will love. In this day in age, it’s difficult to come up with anything truly creative in the somewhat played-out zombie subgenre of horror, but writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner’s film is reinvigorating and absolutely unique. Fans of The Walking Dead will appreciate Wyrmwood’s nihilism as survivors are just as likely to be terrorized by the living as the zombified.
Caught Inside (2010)
“Caught Inside” is a surfing term: When a surfer is paddling out and can’t get past the breaking surf to the safer part of the ocean, he or she is “caught inside”. Caught Inside is also an Australian psychological horror movie where the title takes on a sinister double meaning as a metaphor for rape. Sexual tension and machismo prove a dangerous mix on a surfing charter fittingly called “The Hedonist”. The water below may be teeming with sharks, but the scariest monster here is the psychotic human at the helm.
Acolytes elevates stereotypical “Ozploitation” to the level of High Art, in no small part due to the incredible talent of the film’s young cast. It follows a trio of high school kids who try to blackmail a serial killer into becoming their personal hit man, initiating an unnerving game of cat-and-mouse. An unfortunate love-triangle adds additional levels of complexity and intensity in a film that delves into themes of abuse and voyeurism. A Third Act twist is both shocking and devastating.
The Reef (2010)
The Reef has a lot in common with Open Water: Both films follow unlucky seafarers who find themselves separated from their boats; both use real sharks in filming as opposed to mechanical or CGI versions, and; both are based on true stories (in this case, events that befell Ray Boundy in 1983 when his yacht capsized on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). Both films also examine how extreme stress can fracture even the strongest of relationships when people are forced to face their mortality. As far as maintaining an extreme level of suspense, The Reef will have you on edge, pulse racing, palms sweating for its entirety without a single moment of relief.
Primal is the kind of movie I refer to as “bubblegum horror” but I mean it as a legitimate compliment. Truthfully, there’s not much in this film that you haven’t seen before, but it’s got great pacing and a slick presentation. Primal might seem a bit goofy when held up against hardcore “Ozsploitation” like Wolf Creek, but sometimes you just want a violent good time that won’t necessarily devastate you emotionally. This doesn’t mean the film is shallow or sterile; it’s actually very controversial with poignant examinations of gender dynamics amongst a small isolated group under extreme stress. It’s also a feminist nightmare featuring some sloppy, nearly-obscene Lovcraftian monster-rape.
Did your favorite Australian horror movie make the list?
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