Australia’s Surrogate gives birth to many fresh fears

Surrogate - Courtesy October Coast
Surrogate - Courtesy October Coast /

Surrogate is a brand-new gripping horror film coming from the beautiful country of Australia, helmed by up-and-coming director David Willing and featuring familiar actresses Kestie Morassi (Wolf Creek) and Jane Badler (V). The film centers on a single nurse, Natalie, raising her young daughter with help from her family around her. An odd encounter late in the night leads to unexplainable horror starting to manifest around her young daughter, leading those around her to question her abilities as a mother and even her sanity. Natalie is forced to take matters into her own hands before it’s too late.

As Surrogate makes its way around Australia, I was lucky enough to catch this film stateside. I was immediately drawn into the sultry building dread that encapsulated the early scenes. This film is an enticingly complimentary blend of drama, ghost horror, and impressive body horror and gore sprinkled with themes of motherhood, familial bonds, and grief. The writing by director David Willing and Beth King never lets the viewer get comfortable with twists and turns around every dark corner. It’s clever in its way to subvert expectations, only to whiplash the viewer in a completely different direction. This can sometimes make films suffer tonally but Surrogate doesn’t fall victim to that, keeping a clear and present voice consistently through the brisk 90-minute run time.

Surrogate drags the viewer into grief along with the characters

Performances anchor the swiftly moving plot and invest the viewer into the life of a mother who they believe in, while everyone else doesn’t. The viewer has an inside look at the horror happening around the protagonist while seeing her constantly get blamed. This handcuffs you to Natalie as she descends into madness, just trying to protect herself and her family from unimaginable and unexplained terror, while still trying to be a mother. Kestie Morassi, a horror fan favorite from Wolf Creek, delivers an emotional and passionate performance, and Jane Badler eats up her role as a semi-antagonist working against her.

Typically, movies built around children hinge upon their child actors, which we all know as film fans, are a mixed bag. I was floored by the performances of both Taysha Farrugia in her breakout portrayal of Rose, Natalie’s daughter, and Ellie Stewart, who stole the movie’s most heart-pounding scene as Ava, a young medium trying to help the family. The kids both completely sold their characters and gave layered and powerful performances, helping the viewer completely immerse themselves in their world.

Surrogate – Courtesy October Coast /

Extra attention should be given to both Mark Buys, who constructed a deeply seething score that compounds creepy atmospheric slow builds with moments of sudden intensity and terror to leave the viewer uncomfortable and engaged from the opening scene to the credits, and Ben Luck, whose cinematography might be the shining beacon of the entire movie. Shots that show just enough and linger on brutal imagery, and shots that pull back leaving the viewer wanting more are balanced effortlessly throughout. There is one particular mirror scene that is cinematography gold, and is one of the better original scenes I’ve seen in horror in a long while.

As impressed as I was, I would have enjoyed some more character depth from some of the secondary characters. While Natalie was expertly crafted and fleshed out, I found myself wanting to be more invested in others even a fraction as much as Natalie. I found myself particularly wanting more of Rose, who at her young age continuously stole almost every scene she was in. The third act also felt a little rushed to the finish line, and with the slow and dramatic build of the first half, it caused it to feel a little frenetic. However, with a haunting and impactful ending, the film did conclude in a delightfully menacing crescendo, leaving me pleased and yearning for more from David Willing and company.

Surrogate – Courtesy October Coast /

When Surrogate comes around, it definitely shouldn’t be passed up. If you love the visceral and dramatic undertones of recent films like Relic or Hereditary, Surrogate can fill your plate with just enough haunting familial grief and leave you thinking, just how far would you go to protect your family?

You can catch it yourself on September 2nd through Amazon TVOD or September 16th on Tubi and GoogleTV.

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Does Surrogate sound like a film you will want to watch when it’s available? Tell us why or why  not in the comments section.