The Top 5 Australian Horror Films

Set to speak at the 2017 Screen Makers Conference this week, brothers and horror filmmakers Colin and Cameron Cairnes (100 Bloody Acres, Scare Campaign) share their top five Australian horror films, and some industry insight into them.

Next Of Kin (1982)

This is a really beautifully crafted film with touches of The Shining-like gothic dread, and great performances from the entire cast, including a young John Jarratt AKA Mick Taylor, and Jacki Kerrin.

It was a heady time for the Australian film industry, and there was so much great genre stuff coming out of the US then that it’s not difficult to see how this genuinely creepy film got a bit lost. It has been rediscovered in recent years, helped in no small part by Tarantino’s citing it as one of his favourite Aussie films. Still a hard one to track down but worth the effort.

Lake Mungo (2009)

Lake Mungo is a smart, creepy and highly original take on the supernatural found footage film. Handsomely shot by John Brawley (who also lensed our films, 100 Bloody Acres and Scare Campaign), Joel Anderson’s first feature didn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserved here in Oz, though it has since gained international cult status.

As with much local genre cinema (Wolf Creek being another stellar example) the small budget was no impediment to compelling, artful storytelling and the creation of eerie atmosphere.

Long Weekend (1978)

One of the very best “nature run amok” films, starring the brilliant John Hargreaves and Briony Behets. Long Weekend turns the abundant Australian landscape into a source of dread for a damaged couple who clearly didn’t pay heed to the “Keep Australia Beautiful” campaigns of the 70s.

Directed by Colin Eggleston and written by fellow Crawford’s alum, the talented and prolific Everett De Roche, the film got the remake treatment 30 years later by one of our great horror directors, Jamie Blanks. De Roche could have easily had several more films on this list (Road Games, Patrick, Razorback et al). Check out Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood for the essential doco on the golden age of Ozploitation.

The Loved Ones (2009)

When we happened upon Sean Byrne’s short film Advantage Satan at the St Kilda Film Festival a number of years ago, it was clear that a major new talent had arrived. The film was that good that it inspired in us some sympathy for that F. Murray Abraham character in Amadeus – you know, Salieri, the bitter composer who poisons Mozart?

Whatever fleeting joy we might have got from the thought of dispatching the competition was outweighed by the hope that this guy would get to make a feature. Which he did not long after with The Loved Ones! Byrne’s film has a beautifully realised tone that melds the playful and the outrageous with the brutal and intense.

Wake in Fright (1973)

Is it a horror move per se? Does it matter? Not today, it doesn’t. This is one of the great films, period. Very few films, or books for that matter (the film is an incredibly faithful adaptation of Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel) have exposed the dark side of Aussie masculinity and mateship.

The nightmarish alcohol-fuelled roo shooting sequence troubles the film’s Canadian director, Ted Kotcheff (Rambo: First Blood), to this day. One of the film’s stars, Donald Pleasence, was of course a horror movie regular (Halloween, Alone in the Dark etc) but it’s homegrown legend, Chips Rafferty, as The Yabba’s omnipresent cop, who steals the show with his aggressive Aussie hospitality. If only we’d made more films like this back in the day.

Colin and Cameron Cairnes will appear at the 2017 Screen Makers Conference at the Mercury Cinema on Friday, July 28, speaking on Australian Horror Stories: Tackling the genre of fear… and the fear of genre.

2017 Screen Makers Conference
Mercury Cinema
July 28 & 29
Full programme and bookings available at screenmakersconference.com.au

Adelaide In-depth

Get the latest stories, insights and exclusive giveaways delivered straight to your inbox every week.