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Killer Koalas

Australian (and New Zealand) Horror Films

Part 2: Australian Horror Movies List

by Robert Hood

First published in The Scream Factory (US) in June/July 1994; ed. Bob Morrish; also published in Sirius, 1994 (over two issues); ed. Garry Wyatt.

The Strangler's Grip (Photographed by Franklin Barrett, 1912). PC: West's Pictures. Cast: Cyril Mackay, Leonard Willey and Sydney Stirling, who joined forces with Barrett to make a series of three films, of which this was one. Its most notable feature seems to be that it included a "furious motor ride" (Pike and Cooper).

The Face at the Window (Charles Villiers, 1919). PC: D.B. O'Connor Feature Films. A light spoof about a master criminal named 'Le Loup' (suggestive of Marcel Allain and Pierre Soubestre's Fantomas), who wears a grotesque mask and howls maniacally as he stalks his victims. He kills a prominent Parisian banker and a detective. But a mad doctor uses 'an electrical device' to revive the dead detective momentarily, giving him time to write out Le Loup's real name. Le Loup is shot while trying to escape. The stabbing scene had to be cut before censors would pass it for screening in Sydney.

The Guyra Ghost Mystery (John Cosgrove, 1921). PC: Cosgrove and Regan. William Bowen's house in Guyra was famous for a contemporary haunting. Over several weeks, windows were broken, rocks were tossed onto the roof and the Bowens were kept awake by banging on the walls. Apparently one of the Bowen children confessed to tossing some rocks on the roof to scare a younger sibling, but this didn't seem to account for the extent of the phenomenon, especially as these things kept happening even when the place was surrounded by policemen. The Bowen themselves appear in the film and John Cosgrove stars as Sherlock Doyle, a psychic investigator modelled on a friend of Arthur Conan Doyle's.

The Twins (Leslie McCallum, 1923). PC: Blue Gum Company, for the Charity Moving Picture Society. Made to raise money for charity, this film was a farce-melodrama which set out to compare country and city life. It included a "female vampire".

Fisher's Ghost (Raymond Longford, 1924). 55 min. PC: Longford-Lyell Productions, with Charles Perry. In 1826 in Campbelltown (now a major urban area just out of Sydney) a settler named Farley was supposedly led by the spirit of a murder victim (Frederick Fisher) to the man responsible for his death. History says that Fisher's body was later found in the creek at the spot where Farley first came upon the ghost. Others since have claimed to have seen Fisher's Ghost sitting on the bridge named after him. The film was described as "too gruesome for the public", but was released uncut and apparently earned record takings.

Under Capricorn (Alfred Hitchcock, 1949-Great Britain). Set in colonial New South Wales, this follow-up to Rope was likewise made by Hitchcock, in playful experimental mode, utilising long takes, which tend to make the whole thing a bit static. It has a Gothic atmosphere of moral duty which gives the film a heavily morbid feel. Okay, because it's Hitchcock, but not one of his best, despite the presence of Ingrid Bergman.

And the Word Was Made Flesh (Dusan Marek, 1971). 65 min. Produced, written, photographed and edited by director Marek. A surrealistic experimental film intended to show, according to Marek, "man's attempt to retain his inside freedom ... and not be moulded by the outside". A scientist finds a cocoon. An idealised woman comes out of it. She is harassed by two faceless monsters who are collecting specimens for a museum. She and the scientist make love on a vast stretch of sand, while a killer stalks them. Make sense of it if you can.

Homesdale (Peter Weir, 1971). 50 min. Produced by Richard Brennan and Grahame Bond, with music by Bond and Rory O'Donoghue, both of whom later made a name for themselves in a bizarre TV comedy series called "The Aunty Jack Show". Cast includes Geoff Malone, Grahame Bond, Kate Fitzpatrick, Phil Noyce and Peter Weir himself (in a bit part). This was Weir's first solo feature, a black comedy about a strange assortment of characters who spend a holiday at the isolated Homesdale Hunting Lodge. They are forced to enter into strange deathly games by the even stranger staff, while the distinction between what is real and what is fantasy gradually deteriorates. The film won the Grand Prix at the Australian Film Awards for 1971.

Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971). 109 min. PC: NLT Productions/Group W Films. Cast includes Gary Bond, Donald Pleasence, Chips Rafferty and Jack Thompson. From a 1961 novel by Kenneth Cook, it tells the story of a teacher setting off on a holiday, who finds himself being ensnared in a web of malicious mateship in a small mining town. It was filmed on location in Broken Hill and did fairly poor business in Australia. When United Artists acquired the world rights and 'premiered' it in Paris under the title Outback, it was apparently well received. Many critics place it among the top few Australian films.

Shirley Thompson versus The Aliens (Jim Sharman, 1972). 104 min./79 min. PC: Kolossal Piktures. Songs performed by Jeannie Lewis. Sharman described this movie, which is about a young woman who meets up with some aliens and then tries unsuccessfully to convince everyone that the world is being invaded, a "psychological thriller cum 50's rock musical/science fiction/fantasy movie ... the only A-grade B-movie loathed by underground art-house and commercial managements alike". Sharman re-edited it down to 79 minutes in 1976 for wider distribution and this shortening is his preferred version.

Night of Fear (Terry Bourke, 1973). 54 min. PC: Terryrod Productions — Terry Bourke and Rod Hay. A psycho-thriller about a woman terrorised by a crazy drifter when her car crashes in an isolated country area. Originally banned on the grounds of indecency, but finally released uncut.

The Sabbat of the Black Cat (Ralph Lawrence Marsden, 1973). 80 min. Director Marsden was also producer, screenwriter, photographer and editor, as well as being in the cast. A Poe-inspired film about a man who witnesses a secret ritual and is henceforth tormented by a black cat.

The Cars That Ate Paris (Peter Weir, 1974) aka The Cars That Ate People. The residents of Paris, a small country town in Australia, cause passing cars to crash and then scavenge the remains. One victim survives and is adopted by the town's mayor, but finds himself gradually subsumed by the place. The modified cars of the town's disaffected youth are the ones that do the eating. A classic. (See text.)

Inn of the Damned (Terry Bourke, 1975). PC: Terryrod Productions. A period thriller in which an aging husband and wife, who run an inn, revenge the death of their son on anyone who happens to come by. An American investigator sticks his oar in and brings their nefarious doings to an end. Very gothic, consciously using violence as a box-ofice attraction.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975). A classic Australian film, based on the disappearance of a group of schoolgirls in 1900. An atmospheric and chilling exercise in understated suggestiveness and disorientation, it was an international box-office success, that made Weir's name in the industry. Beautifully filmed. (See text.)

End Play (Tim Burstall, 1976). PC: Hexagon Productions. A whodunnit cum murder thriller in which a young hitchhiker is killed in rural Victoria and two local brothers, one a paraplegic, become suspects. There is a long grotesque sequence detailing the disposal of a corpse. Manages to generate considerable tension. Stars George Mallaby and John Waters.

Summer of Secrets (Jim Sharman, 1976) aka Secret of Paradise. PC: Secret Picture Productions. A reclusive doctor experiments with the brain and memory, seeking the secret of life in order to revivify his dead wife. (See text.)

The Last Wave (Peter Weir, 1977). PC: McElroy and McElroy in association with Derek Power, the South Australian Film Corporation and the Australian Film Commission. A lawyer (played by Richard Chamberlain) stumbles across hints of an impending disaster, long ago prophesied to overtake Sydney. Freakish weather and nightmare visions herald the apocalypse. Effectively chilling in a disorienting manner, with superb build-up of detail. (See text.)

Summerfield (Ken Hannam, 1977). PC: Clare Beach Films with Australian Film Commission. Suspenseful, though quiet, Australian gothic drama. A new teacher in a small isolated town becomes suspicious regarding the fate of his predecessor. The mystery, exacerbated by an air of hostility or evasiveness in the townsfolk, seems to centre around the Summerfield estate. Quietly atmospheric, until the disturbing, though underplayed, violence of the climax. Location shots around Western Pont, Victoria, are quite beautiful. Cast includes Nick Tate and John Waters.

Patrick (Richard Franklin, 1978). PC: AIFC and Antony I. Ginnane in association with Filmways Australia. One of the seminal Australian horror films. Patrick has witnessed/caused the death of his mother and now, as an adult, is in a coma which appears to be almost self-induced. From his hospital bed, however, he is able to reach out psychokinetically and cause things to happen. When he becomes obsessed with a new member of the nursing staff, events escalate toward nightmare. A good example of an excellent film made on a fairly low budget, full of suspense, well filmed and directed, with a superb sense of cumulative detail and good effects. (See text.)

The Plumber (Peter Weir, 1978). PC: South Australian Film Corporation. 72 min. Tele-feature. The wife of a university lecturer is terrorised by a man who claims to be the university plumber, come to fix her pipes. An intriguing little film that creates its characters well and generates good tension. (See text.)

Weekend of Shadows (Tom Jeffry, 1978). PC: Samson Productions and the South Australian Film Corporation, in association with the Australian Film Commission. Not a horror film, but in its theme of small-town suspicion and its depiction of the hounding of a foriegn 'outsider', the Pole, for an axe murder he didn't commit, it is confronting and suspenseful. Rabbit is another outsider, by temperament rather than nationality, who is forced to join the hunt for the murderer against his better judgement. In the end he shoots the Pole to prevent him being humiliated further. "He's a man, not an animal". Stars John Waters.

Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston, 1979). PC: Dugong Films, with financial assistance from the Australian Film Commission and the Victorian Film Corporation. An effective revenge-of-nature horror thriller in the tradition of Hitchcock's The Birds. Excellent photography, acting, and use of suggestive detail. No explanations are given, but the moral culpability of the characters is established throughout. (See text.)

Mad Max (George Miller, 1979). PC: Kennedy Miller. Seminal action thriller cum apocalyptic road movie. Max is a highway patrolman at a time when society is buckling under the pressure of lawlessness and the roads have become the scene of anarchic battles between law and disorder. His wife and child become targets of the road gangs. Much darker, more intensely violent and generic than its progeny. A bleak expression of the nation's 'car culture'. (See text.)

Snapshot (Simon Wincer, 1979) aka The Day After Halloween. PC: Antony I. Ginnane and William Fayman, for Australian International Film Corporation (Filmways Australia). Psychological thriller. A young hairdresser (Sigrid Thornton) is drawn into modelling and, beyond that, a world of pornography, harassment and murder. Sinister suggestion and escalating threat seek to build suspense in Hitchcockian fashion, but it does not often succeed.

Thirst (Rod Hardy, 1979). PC: NSW Film Corporation, Antony I. Ginnane and William Fayman. A vampire film, with a difference. A young career women, Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri), finds herself drugged and taken to an isolated 'farm' where normal human 'animals' are milked of their blood to feed a vampire community which secretly exists throughout human society. Unbeknown to herself, Kate is descended from an aristocratic line and is a pure-blood whom the community want to bring back into the fold. Several effectively chilling scenes. Cast includes David Hemmings.

The Chain Reaction (Ian Berry, 1980). A Palm Beach Picture, in association with the Victorian Film Corporation and the Australian Film Commission. George Miller was an associate producer. 90 m. A likeable and effective 'nuclear accident' horror-thriller in which a husband and wife (Steve Bisley and Arna-Maria Wincester), planning to relax at their bushland retreat, get entangled in a massive cover-up instead. There has been an accident at WALDO, a company at the 'arse-end' of the nuclear process, involved in the disposal and conversion of plutonium waste products. Contaminated water has been spilt into the water-table and will probably end up contaminating the state's drinking water. One scientist, with three days to live, escapes from WALDO in order to warn the public, and a ruthless manhunt begins. Good acting, taut script, excellent action photography and evocative music make for a suspenseful thriller.

Harlequin (Simon Wincer, 1980). PC: William Fayman. A supernatural politcal thriller suggested by the Rasputin story. Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell) is the harlequin figure, a faith-healer who appears to cure the son of a high-profile politician, Nick Rast (David Hemmings) and subsequently exerts a powerful hold over the family (including Rast's wife). The shadowy figures behind Rast's developing career at first try to discredit Wolfe and then kill him. Wolfe's apparent nature raises questions about faith and power. (See text.)

Nightmares (John Lamond, 1980). PC: Bioscope/John Lamond Production. Colin Eggleston was a co-producer and wrote the script. A gory 'stalk-and-slash' horror thriller in which a woman is tormented by nightmares of bloody murder, having been traumatised as a child when her mother was killed in a car accident the girl herself caused. She auditions for an acting job in a theatre and proceeds to slash her way through the cast and crew (not to mention a particularly revolting theatre critic). There is never any doubt about who the killer is, though the climax seems to assume that there should be. Lots of nudity and blood. (See text.)

Alison's Birthday (Ian Coughlan, 1981). PC: David Hannay Productions, in association with Australian Film Commission. A reasonably effective horror-thriller in which a coven of Druids bent on making preservation sacrifices to their goddess plot to fulfil their carefully orchestrated plan concerning a young woman (Alison), following her 19th birthday. Her boyfriend unsuccessfully takes on the forces of evil to rescue her. Even pacing, evoking subtle unease rather than violence.

Horror Movie (Maurice Murphy, 1981) aka Goose Flesh. PC: Universal Entertainment Corporation. A spoof in which a psychopath re-plays events depicted in various horror films.

Mad Max 2 (George Miller, 1981). Bigger, more action-packed sequel to Mad Max. Max, now a drifter in a petrol-hungry, post-apocalyptic world, is forced to help a small community battle the wasteland 'demons' who want their precious petrol. (See text.)

Roadgames (Richard Franklin, 1981). Produced by Richard Franklin. A bored truckie (Stacy Keach), hauling a freight of meat across Australia, plays games with words and with his environment to amuse himself. He imagines himself to be interacting with increasing frequency with a psychopath who dismembers women and litters the highway with their body parts. When he picks up an unhappy hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis), they find themselves having to take part in a game which has become a confronting reality. An excellent and suspenseful film that utilises the threat of being on the road well. (See text.)

The Survivor (David Hemmings, 1981). PC: Tuesday Films; Antony I. Ginnane and William Fayman in association with Laurence Myers. A supernarural thriller in which the pilot of a crashed 747, the only survivor of the wreck, is tormented by guilt and by strange supernatural threats, and is thereby forced to discover the real cause of the disaster. Quite a good film, if a bit muddled, though some critics consider its concept to be severely underdeveloped. Based on the novel by English horror writer James Herbert. Cast includes Robert Powell.

Crosstalk (Mark Egerton, 1982). PC: NSW Film Corporation. A computer-age version of Rear Window, with a plot that is almost identical to the Hitchcock classic. An injured computer expert amuses himself by surveying neighbouring flats via the network and begins to suspect that a murder has taken place. Often atmospheric depiction of a computer-controlled society and evocation of urban alienation lacks originality but is competent and effective.

Lady, Stay Dead (Terry Bourke, 1982) PC: Ryntare Productions. A competent, but nasty, exploitation thriller. A gardener rapes and finally kills an actress for whom he works; he then threatens her sister who arrives not knowing that her sister is dead.

Next of Kin (Tony Williams, 1982). PC: Film House/SIS Production. A ghost thriller in which a young women returns to her mother's property (which has been converted into a nursing home for the aged), and is haunted by a presence within the house. The film explores the nature of blood/power relationships and generates some eeriness as it does so. Stylistically interesting and builds to a bloody climax.

Turkey Shoot (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1982) aka Escape 2000. 93 min. PC: Hemdale and FGH Film Corporation. Producers: Antony I. Ginnane, William Fayman. Executive Producers: John Daly, David Hemmings. Cast includes Olivia Hussey, Carmen Duncan, and Noel Ferrier. A SF-thriller set in the near future when Australia is ruled by a vaguely delineated dictatorship. Dissidents are sent to re-education camps where they are brutalised into compliance. Commander of Re-Ed Camp 47 decides to amuse some elite visitors with a hunt; three men and two women prisoners are given a three-hour head start before the highly armed hunters take off after them and the movie turns into diffused version of The Most Dangerous Game. A lot of unbelievable running-around-in-the-bush and gory mayhem ensue, followed by revolution. Not much of it is very convincing, from the social background to the behaviour of all concerned. The script is very lazy.

Savage Attraction (Frank Shields, 1983). A psychological thriller about sexual obsession.

Innocent Prey (Colin Eggleston, 1984) aka Voyeur. PC: Crystal Film Corporation. Script by Colin Eggleston. A young women keeps getting attacked. Is there some pattern? Tele-feature with video release.

One Night Stand (John Duigan, 1984). PC: Astra Film Productions. Nuclear drama about a group of young people trapped in Sydney's picturesque Opera House when World War Three breaks out. The film's episodic structure doesn't generate much tension — the film is intended more as a character study and an exploration of the powerlessness people feel when faced with the threat of nuclear destruction.

Razorback (Russell Mulcahy, 1984). PC: Western Film Productions and UAA Films. There's a huge, savage boar (a razorback) loose in the Australian outback. The film is more than a Jaws on land, however. Its effective combination of 'monster-on-the-loose' plotting, outback paranoia, humorous characterisation, beautiful photography (by Dean Semler) and surrealistic imagery make it one of the most enjoyable horror films Australia has produced. (See text.)

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (George Miller and George Ogilvie, 1985). Third Mad Max film — more mythic, but no longer horrific.

Cassandra (Colin Eggleston, 1986). PC: Cassandra Productions. A psychic thriller in which the title character finds herself reliving the events of her forgotten past in dreams, as well as being forced to face a vicious murderer who seems somehow connected to those events.

Dark Age (Arch Nicholson, 1986). PC: F.G. Productions. A man-eating-crocodile-on-the-loose-in-the-Northern-Territory film, which, curiously, has never been available for viewing in Australia.

Dead-End Drive-In (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1986). PC: Springvale Productions and NSW Film Corporation. Near-future thriller, with vehicular scavengers in competition for the streets (which have become combat zones) with tow-truck drivers. Crabs (an apprentice tow-trucker) and his girlfriend get stuck in a drive-in cinema which has been turned into a containment centre for youth. He plans to escape. An exciting and visually arresting fantasy. Note that the director's earlier film, Turkey Shoot — also about a futuristic prison — is showing on the drive-in screen at one stage. Adapted from a story by Peter Carey. (See text.)

Frog Dreaming (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1986) aka The Quest PC: Western Film Productions. Young American actor Henry Thomas was imported, amid controversy, to star in this film about a boy who thinks there's a bunyip in a local waterhole and sets out to prove it.

The Hound of Music (Gary McFeat, 1986). PC: Full Moon Films. Horror comedy in which "Frankenstein and The Sound of Music [are] mixed with contemporary social and political comment, humour and music" (Murray, 1993; 364). Tele-feature.

Link (Richard Franklin, 1986). PC: Thorn EMI. An ape-on-the-loose thriller set largely in an isolated manor in Yorkshire. An eccentric anthropologist (Terence Stamp) has been training chimpanzees. One of them, Link, proves not only intelligent but murderous as well. Won the Special Jury Prize at the Avoriaz Film Festival.

Spook (David Anthony Hall, 1986). Said to be "truly dreadful" (Murray, 1993: 72). Beyond that, no information is available and I couldn't find a copy of the film.

Brainblast (Andy Neyl, 1987). PC: Mindless Entertainment Corporation. Horror-comedy thriller about two brain researchers who come up with a mind-blowing video effect and then get hounded by the Mob and the CIA. Released straight to video.

Contagion (Karl Zwicky, 1987). Premiere Film Marketing/Reef Films. A businessman is tempted by a Mephistopheles figure and his seductive henchpersons into committing murder to further his career.

Frenchman's Farm (Ron Way, 1987). PC: Mavis Bramston Productions. A law student is zapped back 40 years to 1944, where she witnesses a murder at Frenchman's Farm. Barely escaping from the murderer, she finds herself back in the present and begins to investigate the murder. Things get a bit sticky then.

Howling III: the Marsupials (Philippe Mora, 1987). PC: Bancannia Holdings. A heroine with a hairy stomach and a pouch, a reclusive tribe of marsupial werecreatures hiding away in the bush, and a satiric sense-of-humour surprisingly make for a more interesting sequel to Joe Dante's excellent The Howling than the other movies it spawned.

Kadaicha (James Bogle, 1987). PC: David Hannay Productions. Teenagers in a newish housing estate dream of an Aboriginal witch doctor who gives them an engraved stone. They wake to find the stone to be real; shortly afterwards, each recipient is killed by savage fauna. The stones are 'kadaicha' or curse stones and the protagonists soon discover that the street in which they live was built, unethically and secretively, on the site of a native burial ground. For this, the neighbourhood teenagers are being cursed to death. It's Nightmare on Elm Street meets Poltergeist, but really just a teen slasher movie. Competently filmed, with patchy acting and poor SFX, especially in the climax, where good effects were desperately needed.

Outback Vampires (Colin Eggleston, 1987). PC: Somerset Film Productions. Script by David Young and Colin Eggleston. Two young blokes and a female hitchhiker are stranded in outback Yarralumla, where the house on the hill is inhabited by Transylvanian vampires, lead by Sir Alfred (John Doyle). The film is peopled by enjoyably bizarre characters and contains some good gags. The climax, however, which should have been modified to suit the small budget, ambitiously sticks to its guns and hence looks cheap and silly. Elsewhere, the low-budget effects work well and its popular use of the small-town paranoia theme is effective — in a comic-book fashion. Television release only in Australia. Released in the US as The Wicked. (See text.)

Zombie Brigade (Barrie Pattison, 1987). PC: CM Film Productions. Todd Hunter, of the rock band Dragon, composed the music with John Charles. As the title suggests, this is a zombie movie. Once again set in a small outback town, it combines the usual small-town issues, aborigines, land development and the war-dead who rise from their graves to cause general mayhem. Its political agenda (the 'bad' — that is, vengeful — dead hark from the Vietnam war; the 'good' — that is, heroic — dead are Second World War veterans) is interesting, and it has some reasonable dialogue sequences. Overall, however, though entertaining enough, it offers little by way of cinematic originality or effective SFX.

Dangerous Game (Stephen Hopkins, 1988). PC: Quantum Productions. 97m. A slick teen psycho movie in which a small group of Sydney University students find themselves trapped in a high-tech department store, the target of an obsessive and demented Irish cop. Naturally, aggressive rivalry gets out of hand and turns into extreme violence. Bright, colourful images, energetic portrayals, and skillfully handled action sequences (especially the extended climax) work in the film's favour. Fairly vacuous and melodramatic, however, if well-made. Apart from some nice scenes among Sydney University's lovely old buildings, the film could have been set in New York, for all that the thematic content and social background reflect an Australian ethos.

The Dreaming (Mario Andreacchio, 1988). PC: Genesis Films. A good 'haunting' film in which an anthropologist (Arthur Dignam) unearths an ancient Aboriginal burial site, thus awakening a curse involving slaughtered natives and murderous European whalers. The anthropologist's daughter (Penny Cook) gets caught up in the midst of all sorts of supernatural goings-on. There are many effective moments in the film. One of my favourites occurs when the daughter (who is a doctor) is examining a set of x-rays, specifically one of a battered Aboriginal woman's skull, and suddenly the image on the x-ray film moves, the jaw opening and screaming. The doctor turns around to see the woman herself screaming.

Hayden Keenan's Pandemonium (Hayden Keenan, 1988). PC: Smart St. Films in association with Tra La La Films. Bizarre black comedy full of surrealistic images and bad-taste moments — a tale told by an escapee from a lunatic asylum, signifying not very much, one suspects. Deliberately shocking and exploitative, but undeniably interesting.

Houseboat Horror (Ollie Martin, 1988). PC: Terror Productions. Low-budget 'slasher' with the usual Friday the 13th elements: youthful female flesh, mad killer, isolated setting, blood and guts.

Out of the Body (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1988). PC: Premiere Film Marketing/Medusa Communications/David Hannay Productions. A composer has visions that reveal to him the murders of various career women. He tries to stop some of the killings from happening, but this only makes him a suspect when he fails. It turns out an evil entity attaches itself to the hero's astral spirit while he is asleep and commits the murders in that composite form. Competent if undistinguished.

Vicious (Karl Zwicky, 1988) aka To Make A Killing. PC: Premiere Film Marketing/Medusa Communications. Graphically violent revenge thriller set in a holiday resort.

Dead Calm (Phillip Noyce, 1989). PC: Kennedy Miller Productions. Excellent thriller starring Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane, which explores isolation and courage. It is set almost entirely at sea. John and Rae Ingram come across a man in a lifeboat, the apparent survivor of a food poisoning epidemic. They locate his derelict ship; John goes over to the ship to investigate and discovers the crew murdered. Meanwhile the murderer overpowers Rae and takes off with her in the Ingrams' boat. Suspense is unremitting, Dean Semler's photography is superb and the performances are good, especially Zane's psychopath. The film won several Australian Film Institute awards.

Death Run (Robert A. Cocks, 1989). PC: Death Run Productions/Soundstage Australia. Astral travel and temporal manipulation. Tele-feature shot on video.

Fatal Sky (Frank Shields, 1989) aka No Cause For Alarm and Vanished. PC: International Film Management/Jadran Films. Produced by Antony I. Ginnane and scripted by David Peoples. Rival journalists researching a UFO sighting find themselves involved in a massive government cover-up surrounding a secret research project in Europe. Well-filmed, dramatic and effective.

Ghosts ... of the Civil Dead (John Hillcoat, 1989). PC: Correctional Services Inc. (Film Productions) Ltd. Brilliant but disturbing depiction of life in a high-security, privately-run correctional facility (fictional, but apparently modelled on prisons that do exist in the US). Conditions are gradually eroded in the prison in order to provoke violence and thus justify the introduction of more draconian measures. Brutal, intensely confronting and important film which mixes genres with a total disregard for convention. (See text.)

Incident at Raven's Gate (Rolf de Heer, 1989). PC: Hemdale Film Corporation/FGH for International Film Management Ltd. Unusual but effective film about odd occurrences at a rural property in South Australia. Its suggestion that some sort of 'close encounter' has taken place makes it SF, but the atmosphere and many of the incidents depicted are frankly in the domain of supernatural horror. Small-town paranoia, sexual obsession and fear of 'the stranger' are strong elements, as unnatural phenomena and escalating human tensions build toward a climax, and terror is evoked as the familiar world turns weird.

The Salute of the Jugger (David Peoples, 1989). PC: Kings Road Entertainment. Post-Mad Max 2, post-apocalyptic thriller, centred around The Game, a combination of gladitorial combat and football. An aspiring team seeks to take on the League champions in a dark underworld City. Cast includes Rutger Hauer and Joan Chen, as, respectively, an ex-Champion exiled from the League for a sexual indiscretion, and a novice runner. Exciting action sequences, good script and direction from Peoples, terrific photography and an exhilerating ending sequence make this an underrated dark-SF film.

The 13th Floor (Chris Roache, 1989). PC: Premiere Film Marketing/Medusa Communications/David Hannay Productions. An 8-year-old girl accidently witnesses her politician father murdering an opponent and accidently electrocuting a boy atop a building under construction. Later, grown up and on the run from him, the daughter takes refuge in the same building, which is haunted by the spirit of the murdered boy. OK ghost film spoilt by poor structure which fails to bring the narrative to an effective climax, merely repeating what has come before. Released to video.

Bloodmoon (Alec Mills, 1990). PC: Village Roadshow Pictures (Australia). An exclusive but isolated girls' school, lots of nubile young ladies (often in a state of undress), and a mad, knife-wielding killer. Put the elements together and see if you can come up with something original. (See text.)

Dead Sleep (Alec Mills, 1990). Produced by Stanley O'Toole. Cast includes Linda Blair. Thriller set in a deep-sleep clinic where a doctor is experimenting on and killing patients.

Demonstone (Andrew Prowse, 1990) aka Heartstone. PC: Antony I. Ginnane and Brian Trenchard-Smith. Jan-Michel Vincent stars as a man whose girlfriend is possessed by a demon released following the excavation of ancient Chinese ruins.

The Min-Min (Carl T. Woods, 1990). PC: Produced by Carl T. Woods. A desecrated Aboriginal burial ground, resultant supernatural mayhem, and a spirit-being from the Dreamtime.

Sher Mountain Killings Mystery (Vince Martin, 1990) PC: Intertropic Films. Supernatural thriller about a stone that conveys immortality. Some bad guys want it and most of the film is an extended chase scene over Sher Mountain as they pursue the good guys who have the stone. There's a ghost called The Ranger too. Pretty listless.

Bloodlust (Richard Wolstencroft and Jon Hewitt, 1991). PC: Windhover Productions. Independent splatter film about a group of modern, 'hip' vampires (more like unusually strong, blood-drinking punks, as all other supernatural elements seem to have been expunged from the script), who run afoul of the criminal underworld. Lots of blood, violence and undergraduate 'gutsiness'. It does have the virtue of being energetic -- but lacks judgement. The 'philosophical' underpinnings are too posture-conscious to carry much conviction. Filmed on video but with theatrical release.

Beyond the Rim (Craig Godfrey, 1992). PC: Pocketmoney Productions. Based on the concept of a pair of glasses which shows the wearer things seen by their previous owner, who is dead. The main thing the glasses reveal is that his apparent suicide was in fact murder.

Fortress (Stuart Gordon, 1992). PC: Davis Entertainment/Village Roadshow. Big-budget, action-packed and gory SF thriller from the director of Re-Animator and From Beyond. Set in a world where having more than one child is a crime. The protagonists are detected during an attempt to smuggle their illegal unborn child over the border and are sent to a new high-security, high-tech prison, build underground. Against impossible odds, they plan to escape. Cast includes Christopher Lambert, Kurtwood Smith, Loryn Locklin and Jeffrey Combs.

The Presence (John Rhall, 1992). PC: Produced by John Rhall. A haunted house story set in modern-day Sydney.

Bedevil (Tracey Moffatt, 1993). PC: Anthony Buckley Productions. An anthology film of ghost stories with a mainly Aboriginal cast. The stories are: 'Mr Chuck', about the ghost of an American soldier who drowned himself in a swamp, which he now shares with an older inhabitant; 'Choo Choo Choo Choo', about phantom trains in the outback; and 'Lovin' the Spin I'm In', about doomed lovers.

Body Melt (Philip Brophy, 1993). PC: Body Melt Productions. Humorous, and gorily grotesque, satire on the lifestyles of middle-class suburbanites, in which the consumption of a certain health product causes acute bodily distortion. A SFX extravaganza (prosthetics by Bob McCarron, who worked on Bliss, Turkey Shoot, Mad Max 2, Salute of the Jugger, Razorback, and Braindead, among others). (See text.)

Done to Death (Darren Boyce, 1993). Low-budget splatter-effect comedy about a serial killer in St Kilda, Melbourne.

 

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