Shudder has been getting a lot of attention this month due to its addition of their Modern French Horror Collection, which got us thinking about Australian horror films.
French horror has a reputation for intense, gruesome, pitch black content, but Australia isn’t far off that mark. A good deal of Australian horror is actually based on real life events too, so we get a nice blend of horror and true crime.
Let’s start with one of our better known Australian horror films, Wolf Creek. This 2005 flick spawned a sequel and a really decent web tv series, and has that trademark bleakness that is evident in a lot of Australian horror.
It’s loosely based on the real life story of Ivan Milat, the Backpacker Murderer, with John Jarratt giving a brilliant (and chilling) performance as a killer named Mick Taylor. As Mick casually hunts down, tortures and murders a group of tourists, viewers are treated to his twinkling eyes and horrific cackle of a laugh. We also learn the phrase “Head on a stick”, a term that still sends a cold chill down my spine.
Reportedly, Jarratt got into character by spending a good deal of time alone in the Australian Outback and not showering. He was nominated for a Fangoria Chainsaw Award for his portrayal of Mick.
Wolf Creek and its sequel are currently streaming on Tubi.
Australian horror isn’t always bleak, sometimes it’s also funny.
Little Monsters is a delightful blend of comedy and gory horror, set during a zombie infestation. A crass, would be musician named Dave is reduced to living with his sister and her son Felix, and has a crush on Felix’s kindergarten teacher Miss Caroline. In order to get closer to her, Dave volunteers to chaperone the kindergartners’ field trip to a farm.
When zombies invade the farm, Dave, Miss Caroline and the children try to keep themselves from becoming zombie chow, while also having to deal with a crazed alcoholic children’s performer named Teddy McGiggles. Alexander England gives a funny, oddly endearing performance as Dave, Lupita Nyong’o is sweet and charming as Miss Caroline, and Josh Gard is a hilarious Teddy McGiggles.
Little Monsters is available to stream on Hulu.
Hounds of Love is another film that appears to be ripped from real-life headlines, since it closely mirrors the crimes of David and Catherine Birny. The Birnys kidnapped, raped and murdered four young women before 18-year-old Kate Moir escaped and the two were arrested. This Australian horror film stars Ashleigh Cummings (NOS4A2) as Vicki, a teenage girl who is kidnapped by a couple named John and Evelyn (played by Stephen Curry and Emma Booth).
As Vicki is tortured, drugged and sexually assaulted, she tries to convince Evelyn to help her, realizing that she is being controlled by her husband. Meanwhile, Vicki’s estranged parents and boyfriend work together to try to find her.
Hounds of Love was very well received, and was nominated for dozens of awards, including wins for the acting skills of Cummings and Booth. It can currently be seen on Shudder.
The last Australian horror film on our list is a 2009 gem called The Loved Ones. This darkly funny and extremely violent flick just may be my favorite on the list, and it’s probably the one many horror fans are not familiar with.
Poor Lola. She asks her crush Brent to go to the prom with her, and he says no. He’s not rude or nasty about it, in fact, he is very polite. But Lola finds out that Brent has a girlfriend, and she is not happy about it.
Meanwhile, Brent is going through some stuff; he was the driver in a car accident that killed his father, and he is feeling guilt-ridden and sometimes suicidal. As he sits at his favorite brooding place, Lola and her father knock him out and drag him to their house, which they have decorated for their own private prom…and Brent is going to be Lola’s date, like it or not.
Also at the prom is a woman called Bright Eyes, and it seems like she may have had a lobotomy. What follows is a crazy amount of torture and violence that includes bleach, a drill, knives, and some uncomfortable interactions between Lola and her weird father.
The Loved Ones was given an R18+ rating in Australia, but after an appeal, the rating was lowered due to the amount of humor in the film. The Australian Classification Board decided that the violence and sadism in the movie was mitigated by that humor.
Robin McLeavy, who played the bonkers Lola, was nominated for a Fangoria Chainsaw Award, as well as a Fright Meter Award. The Loved Ones is available to watch for free on Pluto tv, and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
I hope you enjoyed our little list, and that at least a few readers might be inspired to watch a film included here that you haven’t seen before. Let us know what you think afterwards!
Do you like Australian horror films? Give us your list of favorites in the comments section.