Wednesday, August 28, 2013

FOREIGN HORROR: Terror Down Under

 
Australia is home to some of my favorite horror films of all time. Their films are complex and well-thought out. They are bold new takes on some of the most standard premises that have already been trod upon. And, yet, Aussie horror feels altogether brand new. Grab yourself a chair and some Vegemite...and let's talk Australian horror, mate.

I feel like the current state of Aussie horror is right up there with France and Japan. It is just as influential on the overall modern landscape of the genre. Whenever I try to measure up the significance of a certain region of horror, I always envision a world without certain films that have been made in which to come to my conclusion. If I feel that these certain films are substantial enough to have caused such a stir and that the current world of horror might look different without such films...then, that particular region deserves to be ranked as one of the main contenders for the throne of horror.
 
Wolf Creek, Undead, The Loved Ones, Lake Mungo, Dying Breed, etc. These films mentioned are the new standard of horror. Much like we've been discussing this entire month, Australian filmmakers have taken something that has already existed and turned it into a badass cinematic experience that also scare its audiences in new ways. But, before we go balls deep into the Outback...let us go to the beginning.

 
My very first experience with Australian horror was when my mother managed to come home with a VHS copy of a film called Razorback. Fuck...what a fun film. I remembered being obsessed with crazy wild boars from that day forward. It was just before my teenage years...and, man...had they released action figures of some sort from Razorback, it would have absolutely blown my young mind. So, I had to settle for my customized Razorback  wild boar made from an old Battle Cat I had. Even when I write this piece...I remember that utter joy I had when my mother first popped the Australian film into the VCR. Back then I had no real desire to seek out any other Australian horror films...because I honestly thought it was from America. My naïve brain never stopped to think that this little genre gem could be from some place as far away from Hollywood as Australia. However, years later, once I learned...I set out to dig deeper into Aussie horror and find what I could...as far as more awesome horror films, like Razorback. Then I found...Braindead...and things would never be the same.
 
Peter Jackson (a native of New Zealand) was a relative unknown filmmaker when he created one of the best genre films of for-fucking-ever. Crazy to see how far he's gone in the industry and what a little decision like helming the Lord of the Rings  movies can do for a filmmaker's career. But, still...most genre fans know Jackson from his Bad Taste  days. A film high on concept and short on budget. Still, Jackson had enough imagination to make the films that he wanted to. One can easily see the progression he had with his next film, Meet the Feebles  and how he incorporated some practical FX as well as outlandish premises into his films. The man created some of the most original ideas the genre has ever seen. I mean, how often do you ever see a Sumatran rat-monkey in a horror film...or any other film, for that matter. Dead Alive (Braindead) was actually my introduction to the world of Peter Jackson and his amazing concepts. And while The Frighteners  wasn't as greatly received as it should have been, it certainly set up his career for bigger budget projects.

Speaking of filmmakers that have enjoyed bigger budget success thanks to their high-concept feature debut, Michael and Peter Spierig introduced the world to a fun new zombie apocalypse complete with freshly written dialogue and over-the-top gory entertainment. I remember hearing big things about that film and when I finally sat down to watch it, my expectations for the little low-budget horror film was already through the roof. The Spierig brothers' Undead  did not disappoint, despite my mammoth-sized expectations. It was an awesome new vision that incorporated some of the older concepts and spun it all into a brand new entertaining way of making a zombie flick. And they brought their ingenuity into their next big-budget project, Daybreakers. A smart film that created a brand new vampire world filled with huge concepts and masterful execution. Of course...it didn't hurt having Mr. Willem Dafoe in the film, either.


Of course, one cannot talk Aussie horror without mentioning Wolf Creek - my favorite horror experience from Australia. Greg Mclean (who, incidentally, is a member of the unofficial "Splat Pack") has crafted quite the film. It all starts off unassuming enough, as a small group of partying young adults head off on an impromptu road trip and find themselves in a battle for their lives once the group meets up with a nefarious bushman named Mick Taylor. It's one of those horror films that truly establishes its characters in which to take things to a bleak conclusion. It's also amazing to see the cinematography that Will Gibson accomplishes with such a tiny budget.

Greg's directorial follow-up happened to be a killer crocodile movie named Rogue. What?! Yup...that's what I thought when I first heard about it...or maybe it was an X-Men stand-alone movie. However, Rogue  happened to be the absolute best killer crocodile movie that I've ever seen! The film oozes with style and tension and boasts some truly great acting by the always reliable Radha Mitchell and my favorite Sam Worthington performance. Greg Mclean went on to produce a bunch of stuff...but, it has been reported that he's begun production on Wolf Creek 2...which makes me happier than words can describe.

As you can see, Australia is a country that cannot be fucked with. Aussie filmmakers have created some of the most diverse films the genre has seen in years and current films like the unfortunately mis-marketed brilliant film...The Loved Ones (a film that should've have enjoyed a bigger theatrical release) and the controversial crime/drama Snowtown  prove that Australia will continue to make great horror films for a long time to come.

So, the next time you happen to be in the Outback...make sure you look up Mr. Shane Quill (our favorite Aussie horror fan) for some beer and a tour of his horror collection. I'm sure he's got some gems that I missed.

In the meantime...throw another shrimp on the barbie and let's watch the awesome Razorback, mate...
 






Thanks for reading,

bryan.





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