Top 10 Australian Sci-fi/Horror Flicks!
Quick, what's the last good Australian horror flick you caught? Better yet, what's your all time favorite genre joint imported from the land down under? Can you think of one? I only dare ask because, being such a big fan of Greg McClean's singeing '05 flick WOLF CREEK, we're not only keen to celebrate the history of horror born in the land of Oz, but drum up a little pub for WOLF CREEK 2 as well, which finally hits the states on May 16th. McLean is back in the director's chair, helming just his third feature since bursting onto the scene almost a decade ago. With that output, could he be the next go-to guy to carry the tradition of the country's genre greats: Weir, Miller, Kotcheff, Mulcahy, etc.? Only time will tell I guess, but in the interim, how about we build a basic barometer to compare not just his work, but that of all Aussie newbies in the genre biz as well. Simple enough right? Ghouls, gals...let us anoint the Top 10 Australian Sci-fi/Horror Flicks!
Anyone else fall head over heels for that nasty little psychopath Princess in THE LOVED ONES? How could you not? The pretty in pink dress, the sparkly tiara, the vengeful power-tool that, despite being half her size, she wields around like a goddamn hairbrush. Little fucking minx! Yup, Robin McLeavy is a true heartbreaker, spotted well by writer/director Sean Byrne in his sly tribute to 80s teen-angst comedies and at the same time, hardened slasher joints we all grew up loving. The tonal shifts work pretty well in transition, all leading up to a gore-sodden crescendo that'll likely leave your mouth agape and your dome spinning. Makes you wonder why, if not an outright continuation of the story (prequel or sequel), Byrne hasn't directed anything in the five years since. What gives?
Richard Franklin's crackling case of vehicular violence in ROADGAMES had the misfortune of opening the same year as THE ROAD WARRIOR, which more or less left the former in the dust. But don't be fooled into thinking ROADGAMES is anything but a revved up, riotous, rollicking good time...because it is! Starring genre greats Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacy Keach, the flick finds a bored truck driver (Keach) who happens to pick-up a female hitchhiker (Curtis) one day. But when she suddenly disappears and a mysterious van possibly linked to a wanted serial killer starts shredding the pavement, harassing Keach, a thrilling cat and mouse game ensues that also involves the police. A very solid flick, which we'd like to point out was penned by the late great Aussie scribe Everett De Roche, who also wrote RAZORBACK. He passed less than a month ago, on April 1st. RIP Everett!
The shamefully unheralded Aussie director Russell Mulcahy suffered no sophomore slump with the splendid 1984 creature-feature RAZORBACK, yes, about a giant wild boar ravaging the Australian outland. It's basically the Aussie JAWS of the 80s! What I love so much about this flick is, being an indie production outside the studio system...made in 1984, just about the year the studio system was phasing out graphic violence in horror films (PG-13 would soon form)...RAZORBACK was fucking brutal! I mean, when you're first fatality in the film is that of a small child...yeah, we're all in! And hey, here's a nifty tidbit for all you trivia aficionados, word is the producer of RAZORBACK offered Mulcahy the directing gig immediately after seeing the Duran Duran music video "Hungry Like the Wolf", which Mulcahy also helmed. Fancy that shit!
As our newest import on the list, the only real issue with the superb suburban serial killer flick SNOWTOWN MURDERS, is that it doesn't have the luxury of yet standing the test of time. But we here at AITH feel quite confident the flick will age nicely and hold up sturdily as the years pass by...it's honestly that fine a film. And a true story, or at least based on. If you've not seen it, we urge you to, as it chronicles a teenage boy's descent into murderous madness when he starts running with his mom's heinous new boyfriend. Frightening in its depiction of psychological indoctrination, shocking in its torturous violence, yet human in its storytelling and well drawn characters. Props to Aussie director Justin Kurzel, who presumably parlayed the plaudits of this film to helm MACBETH next, which, as you might expect, has an insultingly talented cast. Good on ya mate!
Okay okay, so it's a US-Australia joint production, there's still no way in hell we'd omit James Wan's surprise, mega-franchise starting hit, SAW, from the Top 10. It's simply too substantial. Additionally, the short film from which the feature was adapted, actually got made in Australia...and was then used as a calling card to find funding for a full-length expansion. Once Lionsgate put up the dough, Wan and his writing pal Leigh Whannell (who also stars in the film) moved shop from the land of vegemite to the LA LA land and shot the entire film on a studio soundstage. And the rest, as they say, is box-office history, establishing Wan as a major power-player in Hollywood and introducing a new generational horror icon in Jigsaw to endure among some of the all-time greats. I just wonder how long before we get the inevitable SAW 8!
I can vividly recall peeping WOLF CREEK in the theater with my sister one night, and how utterly shaken, stirred, swallowed and spit out we both felt once the credits began to roll. Shite f*cked up us good! Now I will admit, the same impact has never been had upon repeat viewings, something about being in a dark theater with only a few strangers among us, the newness of the film, the raw viscera of the whole experience, etc. But I still believe it's the slow-burning first 40 minutes of character interaction that definitely made the terrifying back-half all the more effective. And even though that wild man Mick uses too many firearms for my liking in horror villain, that dude's ability to seem friendly in the beginning, yet so sinister and unrepentantly evil later on...like the characters, I felt tricked, shocked and viciously violated. I cannot wait for Part 2 to drop on May 16th!
The Australian national treasure known as Peter Weir almost distinguished himself twice on the Top 10 (with THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS), but instead, the higher fete is going to his baffling 1975 mystery PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK. What a weird fucking movie! If you've been out to lunch, the flick is about a small class of students in 1900 out to enjoy a nice picnic at the picturesque Hanging Rock Victoria, Australia. But when three of the students and a teacher suddenly vanish without a trace, a hauntingly thought-provoking journey of what-ifs unfold. No doubt unbearable to those who want more answers than questions, but if you like Michael Haneke flicks, I'm sure you'll dig this one as well. And like Haneke flicks, no matter how much you love or hate it, PICNIC is one of those odd curios that will stay with you long after seeing it. Feast on that!
One of the all time great Man-versus-Nature tales of terror comes courtesy of an Aussie movie called LONG WEEKEND, released in 1978. It's a knockout picture we cannot recommend highly enough. Remade back in '08 under the alternate title NATURE'S GRAVE, the far superior original finds a couple that retreats to a remote Australian beach for a nice vacation getaway. What ensues however is anything but. If HEART OF DARKNESS, BURDEN OF DREAMS or ANTICHRIST taught us anything, it's that nature is one fickle, unforgiving beast...a theme put forth to at times even more disturbing cinematic extremes in LONG WEEKEND. Seriously, the last 20 minutes or so are almost entirely devoid of dialogue, instead leaving the viewer entranced in an abject assault of insidious imagery. Buckle up and take the trip!
Any Donald Pleasance fans in the house? Well then, I have the perfect Aussie flick for you to check out on Netflix instant. It's called WAKE IN FRIGHT, and happens to be one of the most intense, nightmarish and baleful bouts of Bacchanalian horror I've ever had the pleasure to binge on. The flick comes from underrated director Ted Kotcheff (FIRST BLOOD, WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S), and follows an English schoolteacher assigned to a rural mining town in the Australian outback. There, as he tries to assimilate, he becomes deeply ensconced in the local custom: pounding booze! Pleasance plays one of the besotted local yokels, completely unwashed and off-the-grid, only concerned with finding his next sip and his next f*ck. It's an undeniably powerful picture, likely still the crown jewel of Aussie hidden-horror gems. Trust me, you'll feel battered after seeing it!
Consider this a doff of the lid to George Miller's entire MAD MAX trilogy, which ran from the 1979 original to the third leg, BEYOND THUNDERDOME, in 1985. We all know the generationally overdue fourth film, FURY ROAD, will hit sometime in 2015 - but come on, if we're discussing the all-time best Aussie genre flicks, how can Mad Max Rockatansky be left out of the mix. Blasphemy, that would be. Truth be told though, I've always been slightly more partial to the middle-entry, THE ROAD WARRIOR, as it does everything a sequel should. It takes the conceit of the original and pushes the envelope in a way that feels bigger, bolder, brasher and ultimately, better. Why then BEYOND THUNDERDOME went all RETURN OF THE JEDI, watering itself down to a PG-13 quasi-self-parody...we'll never know. Let's hope FURY ROAD gets back to basics!