One of the most fascinating things about horror is how various parts of the world interpret the genre. Whether it is the outdoorsy horror of America or the supernatural tales from Japan, each nation seems to have its own take on terror. One of the most fascinating countries when it comes to horror movies is Australia. Australian horror is similar to American horror, but with more of a mean streak running through it. A perfect example of this is IFC Midnight's Killing Ground.
Starring Harriet Dyers and Ian Meadows, Killing Ground is about couple Sam and Ian going on a camping trip together. Worried by an abandoned tent nearby, they are shocked to discover a lone toddler wandering in the forest. Pursued by local hunters German and Chook, the couple are pushed to the edge, exposing a horrifying side of themselves they never could have imagined.
The feature debut of writer-director Damien Power, Killing Ground takes the evil redneck subgenre and pushes it to the extreme, with the roughness that only Australian filmmakers can pull off. In fact, since the year 2000, we have seen a significant uptick in quality when it comes to Australian #horror. If you still need more proof, here are five of the best Australian horror movies of the 21st century.
5. Mad Max Meets Romero In Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead
- Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
- Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill
- Year Released: 2014
As the zombie apocalypse ravages Australia, mechanic Barry is forced to kill his wife and son. Across the country, Barry's sister Brooke is taken by a shadowy paramilitary group. Gearing up and with nothing to lose, it's a race against time for Barry, who has to find Brooke before the mysterious group experiments on her.
From Italy's Zombi to China's Bio Zombie, every country has their own take on the undead, and Australia is no different. What makes Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead special is how it borrows from another icon of Australian film: Mad Max. Like George Miller's sci-fi classic, Wyrmwood uses Australia's unique environment to create the perfect post-apocalyptic environment. That isn't to say that's all the film has though. It is very reminiscent of early Peter Jackson mixing over-the-top comedy with even more over-the-top gore effects. With a Wyrmwood television show currently in the works, this indie feature is the perfect jumping-off point for this blood-soaked zombie apocalypse.
4. The Worst Prom Ever In The Loved Ones
- Director: Sean Byrne
- Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine
- Year Released: 2009
Lola Stone isn't asking for too much, just a date to the prom. When Brent tells her no, her father kidnaps him to make her dream come true. With the help of Daddy, she holds a prom of her own, determined to make it the best prom night ever — by any means necessary.
By the time the 2000s were ending, splatter films had been played out. In 2009, it took more than just being so called torture porn to stand out. Instead of just delivering a wannabe Hostel, director Sean Byrne blended elements of Carrie and Fatal Attraction. While each element sounds wildly different, when mixed together it works out surprisingly well. A lot of this is thanks to a stellar performance from Robin McLeavy as Lola. Even though she is clearly obsessed, and driven to madness, there's a certain sweetness she brings to the role; a lovelorn veneer that makes her psychosis all the scarier. Add some great twists and brutal imagery and The Loved Ones is one prom night you won't soon forget.
3. Nature Fights Back In Rogue
- Director: Greg McLean
- Starring: Sam Worthington, Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell
- Year Released: 2007
Working for a travel magazine, Pete and Kate are sent to Australia, where they join a group of tourists on a river cruise through Australia's Northern Territory. Spotting an upturned ship, they soon discover that they are in the territory of a giant crocodile. Stuck in the middle of Kakadu National Park, the group must not only survive the crocodile, but the surrounding environment as well.
Few countries are as well known for their deadly creatures as Australia. With poisonous snakes and venomous spiders, Australia is the perfect setting for a creature feature. While crocodiles are usually fodder for cheesy Syfy Channel fare, Rogue is a surprisingly compelling riff on the Jaws archetype. Throughout the film, the crocodile feels intelligent without it feeling contrived, and the effects still look decent a decade later.
As fun as the giant crocodile is, what makes the movie work so well is the directing. Using the Northern Territory to his advantage, Greg McLean utilizes the scenery to the best of his ability. Epic aerial shots give the area a desolate feeling that most horror movies strive for. With a fun monster and some stellar direction, this take on the giant reptile holds up surprisingly well a decade later.
2. The Supernatural Mystery Of Lake Mungo
- Director: Joel Anderson
- Starring: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe
- Year Released: 2008
Before Paranormal Activity kicked off a resurgence of found footage movies, Australia had its own take on the polarizing subgenre. After the death of teenager Alice Palmer, her family suddenly start to experience supernatural events. No longer able to take it, the distraught family seek the help of a psychic. Surprised to learn their daughter was leading a secret double life, the Palmer family are led to Lake Mungo to uncover the truth.
After years of popularity, found footage movies tend to follow a similar pattern. From the big movies like Paranormal Activity to forgettable fare such as The Gallows, a lot of the same tropes tend to be repeated. What makes Lake Mungo so interesting is how far it strays from these clichés. Instead of going for jump scares and slow-moving doors, Lake Mungo is more about building the mystery of what happened to Alice. Like a good murder mystery, each clue builds on each other before a shocking revelation at the end. While not the scariest or the bloodiest of fare, Lake Mungo is the kind of interesting and adult take on horror that we rarely see.
1. Australia's Very Own Horror Icon In Wolf Creek
- Director: Greg McLean
- Starring: John Jarratt, Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath
- Year Released: 2005
After a night of drinking Ben, Lizzie and Kristie make their way to Wolf Creek National Park to spend a week among nature. Stuck in the middle of nowhere after their battery dies, the trio are taken in by a local hunter Mick. Slowly but surely, the three learn that Mick isn't who they think he is, and they look to be his next victims.
When it comes to creating iconic characters in horror many have tried, with very few succeeding. While the United States and Japan have numerous, Australia found its own in Wolf Creek's Mick Taylor. Despite appearing like any other middle-aged man, behind that folksy smile is one of the most memorable killers in horror history. Thanks to John Jarratt's performance, Mick is able to convey a charismatic brutality rarely seen on screen. He will crack jokes while torturing his victims that feel more threatening than anything else.
Helping this is Greg McLean's direction. Like Rogue, he can bring out the rawness of the outback the way few can. Like horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, everything has a griminess that makes the film feel the right kind of sleazy. McLean also does an excellent job with the suspense, giving the audience just enough hope before snatching it away. Doing well enough for a sequel and even a TV series, Greg McLean's Wolf Creek is an iconic piece of Australian horror.
Terror Down Under
In the world of film, the country of Australia has always marched to the beat of its own drum. When people were looking to space for science fiction, director Greg Miller gave us the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max. In the '80s, when thrillers focused on the big city, Phillip Noyce took us out to sea in Dead Calm. Things are no different when it comes to the horror genre. With a grittiness and mean-spiritedness unique to Australia, the land down under has been one of the most interesting nations for horror for decades. If Killing Ground is any indication, Australia will be one of the premier destinations for horror for years to come.
Killing Ground hits theaters and VOD July 21st. This is just a fraction of Australian horror. What are some of you favorites? Let me know in the comments below