The Best of Australian Horror: A Look at the Most Frightening Movies in the Land Down Under

The Best of Australian Horror: A Look at the Most Frightening Movies in the Land Down Under

by | Sep 17, 2021

Australia is as beautiful country that is as varied as it is enormous.  It is home to thriving cities, vast wilderness, and earnest, friendly people. Oh yes… it’s also home to Killer Crock’s, crazed psychotics and giant killer boars. Well, according to the movies!  Australian legendary filmmakers have been terrifying us for decades with many features that’ll make you jump higher than kangaroo on hot sand. The Land Down Under has a bloody and shocking back catalogue of horror films that will surely turn your blood cold, with some of the genre’s greatest sun-soaked scares. Turning our attention to the Southern Hemisphere, we celebrate the best Australian horror movie.

Cargo (2018)

The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Australia is a country that’s as diverse as it is beautiful, it’s no surprise that some of the best of Ozy horrors takes place in the sunburnt, treeless and animal-infested Outback. No film demonstrates that better than the recent offering from directorial duo Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, who wrangled up a modern zombie film that will surely hit you in the feels.

Starring Martin Freeman as man battling to keep his baby Daughter alive during a zombie apocalypse, wonderfully realised film is not your usual zombie film. There are no hordes of blood thirsty undead or torrents of gore, instead Cargo is a carefully crafted heart-breaking story of survival that is mesmerising as it is devastating.

 

Razorback (1984)

Razorback (1984) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Russell Mulcahy’s feature debut was a massive cult hit back in the 80’s, but it’s sadly fallen out of favour over the decades. The film about a giant killer boar wowed audiences with its Jaws like approach, with Mulcahy’s wisely keeping the creature mostly off-camera. Razorback is lusciously shot picture, with Australia’s beautiful landscape framing every scene.  It’s gorgeous to look at and thrill form start to end.

 

Long Weekend (1978)

Long Weekend (1978) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

This environmentally conscious psychological thriller was shot at a period when environmental activism was on the rise. Director Colin Eggleston delivers this story about nature’s revenge without ever tip-toing into the creature-feature sub-genre. There’s no big beastie here such as in Razorback or Black Water, instead the villain of the piece is mother nature her-self, who inducts her rage through the many creatures of the Australian wilderness. The victims of which are Marcia (Briony Behets) and Peter (John Hargreaves), a couple whose indifferent disrespect invokes natures wrath.

This minimalist psychological horror has a huge impact, with it’s pre Last Destination vibes, which makes for a compelling and chilling film.

 

Black Water (2007)

Black Water (2007) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Set in the mangrove swamps of northern Australia, Black Water takes us to a drastically different setting to what we are accustomed to seeing in Australian horror. Inspired by the true story of a crocodile attack in Australia’s Northern Territory in 2003, the film follows a tour boat terrorized by a ferocious saltwater crocodile, turning a pleasure cruise into fight for survival against one natures biggest and baddest reptiles. The films high tension and sharp shocks delivers a thoroughly thrilling film which does for crocodiles what Jaws did for sharks.

 

The Loved Ones (2009)

The Loved Ones (2009) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

The Loved Ones is a Shocking, jaw-dropping and extraordinarily uncomfortably film from Director Sean Byrne. Coming at a period of time where Torture Porn was hot property, this grisly film does away with any logic behind the crimes and goes all in on the cruel and crazy.

Like an Australian Texas Chainsaw Massacre, psychotic father and daughter act as the instigators of a series of nasty murders and long drawn-out tortures. The film focuses on disturbed Lola Stone, who take revenge on high-school lad Brent, after being turning down for an invitation to Prom. It’s on the edge of your seat stuff, with plenty of shocks, that does not require a lot of concentration.

 

Next of Kin (1982)

Next of Kin (1982) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Considered as an “Ozploitation” (Australian exploitation) picture, Next of Kin is dark tale that is a shockingly underappreciated gem of 80’s cinema. It’s a beautiful and atmospheric film about a woman who inherits a rural estate that houses a long-held retirement community for the elderly. The film plays out like a Antipodean ghost-story, with masterful direction from Tony Williams, whose lingering camera shots manage to make even a sugar cube stacking scene a heart pounder experience in tension.

The film featured in the documentary Not Quite Hollywood (2008) where Quentin Tarantino declared the film to be on same level as The Shining. With praise like this, you’ll probably wondering why you’ve never laid eyes on this wonderous Australian horror.

 

Little Monsters (2019)

Little Monsters (2019) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

There aren’t many Romantic Comedy Zombie films floating round, but OZ has at least added itself to the prestigious list of countries responsibly for these genre mash-ups. Rolling on 15 years after Shaun of the Dead.  Australian writer-director Abe Forsythe put out this little gem, about a kindergarten teacher Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) and her pupils caught up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

Whilst it may feel like lite horror, it still manages to entertain on all the levels you’d expect from a Rom-com, it’s just all played out covered in claret and with entrails dragged out behind it. And isn’t that really the point of horror comedy, to balance out the extreme gore and violence with the quirkiness of the film’s levity.  Little Monsters does this well, presenting a fun film that’s hard not to like.

 

Bad Boy Bubby (1993)

Bad Boy Bubby (1993) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

The Adelaide set black comedy is perverse journey into the mind of a mentally challenged 35-year old man, who finally escapes from the abusive of his religious fanatic mother. If Forest Gump had a black sheep family member, it would be Bad Boy Bubby.

Whilst the content is purposely repelling, the films provocative story really grabs you by the ruff of your keck, dragging your through the hard to watch cinema. The film is held up by the amazing performance of Nicholas Hope, who would have surely given Tom Hanks a run at the Oscars, if the film had been a little more approachable.

 

Road Games (1981)

Road Games (1981) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Road Games is an interesting twist on the slasher genre, as an offbeat truck driver find himself stalking a serial killer across Australia, who is butchering women and dumping their dismembered bodies along desolate highways.

The film feels like the bastard child of Duel (1971) and Rear Window (1954), crashing the ideas head on in a twisted metal hybrid. The films main drive comes from the relationship between trucker Pat Quid (Stacy Keach) and his perky hitch-hiking passenger (Jamie Lee Curtis). The captivating dialogue and intense paranoia has a strong Hitchcockian vibe throughout, making this a road-movie worth watching.

 

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (2014) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

This dark, brooding Australian psychological drama might not be on the top of people’s favourite horror films, but this light-horror remains to be a chilling look at depression and psychosis.

On the surface, it’s story about a grieving wife and son haunted by a creature heralded from a mysterious book. However, scratch a little on the surface, and you’ll see a dark and disturbing story, where maternal failure can be just as fearsome as even the most terrifying creature.

 

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Director Peter Weir’s enigmatic period-piece horror helped draw international attention to the then-emerging Australian New Wave of cinema, weaving a tale of the mysterious disappearance of a group of school girls and their teacher.

Set in the 1900’s, this beautifully shot film manages to capture the raw beauty of Australia’s wildlife, whilst telling an evocative story filled with mystery and intrigue. For those of your clambering to find the truth behind the girls disappearance, you need to look no further than the book The Secret at Hanging Rock, a post humorous sequel to the novel in which the film was based on. Author Joan Lindsay had a deep fascination with Spiritualism, nature and the existence of spirits, and the removed last chapter of her book was published as a sequel, giving readers a brief and disturbing answer to the mystery.

 

Dying Breed (2008)

Dying Breed (2008) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Dying Breed Australian horror film, directed by Jody Dwyer, about a group of cannibals set in the Tasmanian wilderness. Whilst is has vibes of 2003’s Wrong Turn, it luscious settings and top cast help it to stand out on it’s own. Stars Leigh Whannell rarely puts a foot wrong in his film choices, and Dying Breed is not an exception. 

The film deviates from your usual cannibal film, where the bad guys here are looking to replenish their dwindling breeding stock. The group of hikers, who are unfortunate enough to encounter the cannibals, must fight for survival or end up in a life or servitude and corruption. Whilst it’s easy to mistake this for your usual hack n slack horror, It’s a much deeper film, and it’s dark undertones and sophisticated story will surely leave an impact.

 

Dead Calm (1989)

Dead Calm (1989) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

This late 80’s Australian home invasion thrillers twists the sub-genre on its head by setting the action to the middle of the Pacific. Whilst it’s easy to set parallels between Dead Calm and the third act of Cape Fear, remember that Dead Calm came out a good two years before the massive Martin Scorsese film.

In Dead Calm, a couple rescue a mysterious man from a sinking ship, only to discover that he is not what he first seems to be. This dark psychological horror is a sharp as it is tense, with a killer cast of Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane.

 

Patrick (1978)

Patrick (1978) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Patrick is a 1978 Australian science fiction horror film which helped to popularise Ozploitation films. The film was director Richard Franklin’s big moment in cinema, which helped to raise his profile within the industry, and certainly within the horror genre.

The story of a comatose patient with psychic powers might not sound like the most thrilling of subject matters, but the films offering a creepy story topped off with slowly building dread.  Whilst Patrick might not stand up against over horror killers; there is only so far you can stretch the terror of an insensible, bed-ridden, villain, the film still manages to deliver a chilling homicidal persona worthy of few re-watches.

 

Wolf Creek (2005)

Wolf Creek (2005) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

Whilst there are millions of backpackers and tourists who have safely made their way across Australia, terrible things do happen. Over the last few decades rising cases of abduction, murder and rape have turned the focus back on the potential dangers about backpacking out in the Outback. No film does more than to play on these fears than Wolf Creek.

Director Greg McLean used the real-life murders of backpackers by Ivan Milat in the 1990s and Bradley Murdoch in 2001 as the inspiration for his screen play. The film about a sadistic, psychopathic, xenophobic serial killer, in the Australian outback resonated throughout the horror fan-base, so much so that the torture -porn styled horror spawned a sequel and a two season TV show, all starring John Jarratt as the psychotic Mick Taylor. It’s violent, shocking and terrifying.

 

Snowtown (2011)

Snowtown (2011) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

The Snowtown Murders is one of the most sadistic, degrading and hard to watch pieces of cinema in the last couple of decades. What makes it even more disturbing is that it is based on a real -life murder campaign that took place between August 1992 and May 1999, in and around Adelaide, South Australia.

In his debut directorial performance, Justin Kurzel’s portrayal of the horrendous tortures, mutilations and murders contrast very heavily against the dramatic starkness of the poverty stricken surroundings in rural Australia. Gone here are the rolling stock footage of sunburnt vistas and beautiful sunsets, all replaced with grey grim reality of rural life.

The films hard nosed efforts to put the audience at ill-ease are only compacted by the lack of music and tone, and whilst the camera lingers on the brutal crimes, the film almost feels voyeuristic in its approach. Snowtown is provocative psychological horror that is shocking and grim. It will surely leave a massive impact on you.

 

Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo (2008) - The Best of Australian Horror – Horror Land

If you’re looking for one Australia’s scariest horror ventures, you’ll need not look further than the 2008 low-budget found-footage film Lake Mungo. In the 13 years since the film’s release, the unsettling horror mockumentary has sadly lost a lot of its attention, but it’s never lost its sharp edge.

The story follows a grieving family, coming to terms with death of their daughters drowning. However, strange things have been going bump in the night and the documentary crew are here to investigate the paranormal activity. What unfolds is one of the most devastating ghost stories ever told. The complex emotions, mixed with the films creepy, and often suggestive, imagery deliver a film which is chilling and deeply disturbing.

The film is strongly influenced by the works of David Lynch, and it’s no coincidence that the family grieving for their dead daughter is called The Palmers, as it was of course Laura Palmer’s death that kicked of the TV series Twin Peaks. The Lynchian approach to film making, by Australian written and directed by Joel Anderson, is never more prevalent than the films third act. But the most overwhelming moments comes as the credits roll, introducing the audiences to the terrifying, and strangely sad, truth behind the film’s mystery.  

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“Gday Horror Fans – looks like we have turned this list on it’s SEVERED head, with whole bunch of must see movies. If you have yet to experience the beauty and emotion of films like Cargo, Hanging Rock or Lake Mungo, make sure they make it on your list. Also, Dead Calm, Razorback and Road Games are all excellent 80’s slasher bonanza that you can not afford to miss. Such a great list and I hope you enjoy exploring these Antipodean horror’s as much as we did researching them! Until next time… hands all snakey horror fans!

Keep Rotten”

 

“Morti” The Mortician

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