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10 Australian Horror Films You Can’t Miss

Ben Hurry 38 Comments

As an Australian, I am often disappointed to see great local films go unnoticed by a wider international community. Our local flora and fauna is unique and strange thanks to our isolation and our films – especially horror films are no exception to this rule.

The bleak, empty and unforgiving backdrop of the Aussie Outback creates the perfect setting for our own blend of harsh horror and disturbing chills. With the recent “Wolf Creek 2” poster making its way online and the release date creeping ever closer I look back at ten Australian horror films you can’t miss.

Note: This list doesn’t necessarily represent the BEST Australian horror films, simply the ones I feel no horror fan should miss.

10. ROGUE (2007)

One of the better “wild animal eats lots of attractive tourists” movies, Rogue centres on a scenic boat tour in the Northern Territory Kakadu national park which goes awry after the boat is attacked and damaged by the massive saltwater crocodile aptly named… Rogue. The poor tourists must then fight the elements, each other and the giant beast as they fight for survival. This film is made all the more terrifying with the number of fatal croc attacks on the rise the past years and the fact that Rogue was actually based on a real saltwater crocodile!  The croc in question was a 5.1 metre (16 ft) monster called ‘Sweetheart’ who was responsible for a number of attacks on fishing and tourist boats throughout the 70’s.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

9. VAN DIEMENS LAND (2009)

Another Australian film based on a true story, this is horror of the human, rather than the supernatural type. After escaping from the Macquarie Harbour Penal Settlement in Tasmania, Irish convict Alexander Pearce and seven other convicts quickly discovered that survival in the harsh Tasmanian wilderness is harder than they ever imagined. After 15 days the men were starving and drew lots to decide who would be killed for food and from there it turned into a grisly spectacle of betrayal, murder and cannibalism. The film itself is superbly shot and acted, and the long, eerie shots of the cold Tasmanian wilderness coupled with a chilling score makes this one worth watching.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

8. RAZORBACK (1984)

Well – where to even begin with this. I heard one reviewer once call it “Jaws on land and with a giant pig” and that pretty well sums it up. I’m not going to say anything along the lines of this being a great movie, it’s not – but it is a LOT of fun. Combining an interesting premise with lots of cheesy 80’s special effects Razorback sees our giant porcine friend tearing apart cars and buildings to ravage those inside and what it lacks it technical mastery it more than makes up for in pure cheesy enjoyment. When I first saw this film it was in a room full of slightly drunk horror lovers, screaming and laughing at every scene and I think that is the perfect way to view this movie.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

7. SAW (2003-4)

We all remember the original Saw film – the one with an amazing story, amazing performances and a twist ending which legitimately shocked audiences. Before it devolved into a series of ways to show human misery and suffering it was a nine and a half minute short film made in 2003 used to shop around to studios for funding to make into a feature length film. Finally getting picked up by Lionsgate the short was extended into the very first feature length Saw film, and the one which launched a franchise.

 10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

6. UNDEAD (2003)

A zombie comedy from Michael & Peter Spierig – though certainly not of the calibre of Shaun of the Dead it is still a delightful and charming film about a meteorite strike which turns a small outback town into zombie central. Well received by critics and regarded for its wicked sense of humour and introduction of “Cinemas first ever triple barrelled shotgun” this film perfectly captures both the bizarre style of Australian cinema and the unique Aussie humour. Think Shaun of the Dead meets Evil Dead 2 and you won’t be far from the craziness of this film.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

5. PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975)

Peter Weir’s unforgettable masterpiece of Australian cinema is (allegedly) based on the real life unsolved disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher in the Aussie outback. Even with its age, this still ranks as one of the most unsettling, eerie and downright chilling Australian films ever made. The film works so well as Weir, like the real life mystery the film is allegedly based on, gives you no real ending – concluding with the disturbing and creepy notion that 4 people just disappeared into thin air with no explanation given or found, and with the vast emptiness of the Outback caught so perfectly by Weir, you walk away with the unsettling notion that perhaps that is exactly what happened.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

4. LONG WEEKEND (1978)

Wilderness Horror! A cocky suburbanite couple decide to go camping to try and repair their rocky marriage, and instead wind up taking their frustrations out on the wilderness around them. It goes well until Mother Nature decides She’s had enough and the wilderness begins to fight back! Never before, and never since has the Australian outback been so ominous and fatal – with the actual landscape around them being cast as the “monster” Australia itself becomes the horror – and by god is it done well. On paper this sounds like the amusing premise to a schlocky B-Movie, on film though it is anything but. . I cannot recommend this movie enough.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

3. THE LOVED ONES (2010)

A movie which has been described equally as “a masterpiece of Aussie cinema” and “a film which offers nothing but sick, gruesome imagery” and which inspired a real life murder by a man  so obsessed with this film he acted out many of the scenes on his best friend, the Loved Ones has divided audiences since its release. The film sees Brett (Twilights Xavier Samuel, don’t judge him on Twilight though – his performance in this film is ASTOUNDING) abducted and submitted to various tortures and brutalities by jealous and psychotic Lola (Robin McLeavy) and her “Daddy” who may just have more than fatherly love for his daughter… This film certainly is bleak and unforgiving in its portrayal of the tortures and violence committed on Brett, but with solid directing and strong performances, this masterpiece of Aussie horror somehow captures the picturesque scenery and the beauty of the outback, even amidst the carnage onscreen.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

2. WOLF CREEK (2005)

Wolf Creek – even without the creepy, serial killing John Jarrat (who has the creepiest laugh in Aussie horror) the Wolf Creek Crater is one creepy (and totally real) place. Add in three backpackers, one serial killer and a night of sheer brutality and terror and you have one of the slickest, most disturbing Aussie films made. What makes this film more unsettling is its resemblance to the real life “Backpacker Murders” in which seven young foreign tourists and backpackers were tortured and killed by Ivan Milat during the 90’s. Add to that an eerie musical score composed by recording the haunting notes of rusted metal cables rubbing together in the wind and the atmosphere and sheer terror created by director Greg McLean makes this one almost impossible to beat.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

1.  SNOWTOWN (Also known as: The Snowtown Murders -2011)

What is it with Australian horror being based on unforgettable crimes and gruesome murders? In the case of Snowtown it’s not just based on, it IS the story. A retelling of the absolutely horrifying “Body in the Barrel” murders of the 90’s this controversial film is superbly well made, with an astonishing performance from Daniel Henshal and incredible directing from Justin Kurzel it all comes together to create one of the greatest, most chilling and all round disturbing Australian horror films of all time. For the families of the victims however, it served as a painful reminder of the atrocities with the film coming out barely a decade after the last murder was committed. Not even Saw or Wolf Creek could match the level of controversy this film garnered, with one popular critic stating: “I watched this film so you don’t have to”.

However for one unattached or unfamiliar with the terror the murder-spree created, or the horror felt as the details of what took place emerged, the review by critic Fiona Williams is closer to the mark. “Snowtown sidesteps the gore – mostly – to focus instead on the circumstances that enabled the atrocities to occur…It’s a gripping, discomforting watch.”

Either way, it’s one of the greatest Aussie films I have ever seen.

10 Australian Horror Films You Cant Miss

With six of the ten films on this list either being inspired by, or inspiring, true events it isn’t going to do wonders for Aussie Tourism, however it is a wonderful celebration of Australian Cinema, and the many and varied ways you can die a miserable death while on our shores! So what do you think fellow horror fanatics? Did I miss your favourite film? Think the list should be rearranged? Sound off in the comments and have your say.

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38 Comments

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      1. Tiago Almeida May 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm

        I have some issues with some of this movies i’ve watched. Rogue and Saw are very bad movies in my opinion. Long Weekend and Loved Ones I kind of dig. Snowtown Murders is good, but is too slow for me.
        Where is Next of Kin? and off couse , Patrick???

        • Ben Hurry
          Ben Hurry May 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

          This was not meant to be a list of the BEST films. Rogue is not going to win an Oscar any time soon, and its scares are non existent but it still represents one of the best “animal kills people” movies, and in my opinion is the standard for film makers looking to make this type of animal/monster centred b-movie.

          I was going to include Patrick, though I have not yet seen it and as I am operating on limited internet I can’t get it online either so I made an ethical choice not to include a film I had not experienced for myself.

      2. Herner Klenthur May 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm

        Good list. A few on it I have not seen which I will have to.

      3. Petra Lorre May 19, 2013 at 10:44 pm

        No love for Lake Mungo? Well, you still mentioned Picnic at Hanging Rock, which I will adore for all time.

      4. K Hutch (@72nivek) May 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

        Interesting you chose Snowtown as number 1. Personally the worst of the list. I know its a personal choice but you missed Dead Calm, Bad Boy Bubby, Black Water, Road Games. To be honest, it could be a list of 20 or even 30.

        • Ben Hurry
          Ben Hurry May 20, 2013 at 10:39 am

          Like I said, I didn’t want this list to be of the ‘best’ films, simply the ones I think had the most impact on Australian Cinema and which would be appreciated by worldwide fans.
          As an interesting sidenote, my original list was 17 films before I cut it down to the ten you see here. Dead Calm was one of those films, so don’t be surprised if you see a part two if this proves to be popular.

        • Herner Klenthur
          Herner Klenthur May 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm

          Snow Town is a VERY VERY brutal movie. Wont win any awards but its truly terrifying. I agree with his including it , not so sure about #1 but its HIS list :)

        • K Hutch (@72nivek) May 22, 2013 at 10:18 am

          Its a good list, dont get me wrong, and I agree with all on there, my point (badly made, sorry) was that there are many good Aussie movies which would be enjoyed by international audiences and therefore the list could have been longer. I enjoyed Snowtown, not only for the content but for the fact this mainly happened in the same suburb I lived, just thought no.1 was high.
          I would love to see part 2.

      5. Chilli May 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm

        Hey that John Jarret would have to be a dead set serial killer hey, he does it so easy in Wolf Creek

      6. Cernunous May 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm

        Thanks very much for this list. I’ve missed several of these films and will definitely check them out. I’m jaded as far as film violence is concerned and I still found Snowtown to be quite unsettling. The soullessness of the killings was certainly disturbing. I agree with you on it’s placement in your list. Please do continue in a Part 2.

        • Ben Hurry
          Ben Hurry May 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm

          Thank you for taking the time to read it! :D
          I think the reason Snowtown works so well is because it doesn’t just aim for the gore factor like a lot of films would have, instead it works its way into your psyche and leaves you VERY unsettled indeed.

          Part 2 may just be what the doctor ordered!

      7. Tarantula Tale May 24, 2013 at 5:50 pm

        VAN DIEMENS LAND (2009) is really a good movie, loved it. But Snowtown kinda disappointed me; probably because of its art house sort of approach, pace was pretty slow.

      8. Jennifer H May 24, 2013 at 10:49 pm

        Great list! I just saw Picnic at Hanging Rock last year for the first time and I will forever love that movie.

        Snow Town I agree gets into your psyche, I think it might of been the combination of that and it being somewhat slow that made me turn it off an hour in. I tried to watch it again recently but just can’t bring myself to that one.

        The Loved Ones was a wicked movie too! I’m definitely going to check a few more of these out, thanks:)

        • Ben Hurry
          Ben Hurry May 25, 2013 at 12:38 am

          Picnic at Hanging Rock will forever be one of my favourite Aussie films, it’s just so superbly shot and acted.

          Snowtown is a VERY slow movie, but I think that is what sets it apart from other films of the same vein. They could have made a quick, gory edge of your seat serial killer film, but instead chose to take the road less travelled, and made it slow and somewhat boring – which for me just adds to the terror and makes it more real. I have no doubt the writers and directors made a concious decision to make the movie this way.

          Thanks for your comment!

      9. Matthew Witschonke October 17, 2013 at 11:17 pm

        Wake In Fright from 1971 is one I would place at the top of the list. Maybe more of a psychological thriller, but pretty disturbing nonetheless. I screened The Snowtown Murders and Wake In Fright for some friends as part of a weekly horror movie meetup. The room was pretty quiet that night…

      10. fredjones@bigpond.com.au December 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm

        The Cars that ate Paris

      11. Natalia December 6, 2013 at 5:20 am

        Dying breed should be on this list, that was the movie that got me in to Aussie films in the first place.. Its definitely a must watch. Just my opinion :)

        • Herner Klenthur
          Herner Klenthur December 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

          Good call Dying Breed is a fun one!

      12. Shane Mattey December 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm

        No Lake Mungo?

      13. Kindness As Narrative December 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm

        Thanks! Those on the list I’ve seen are really good, so will definitely check out the others.

      14. Andrew Sedlack December 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm

        Audqe

      15. Yolin Lafrenière December 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm

        Will check out the ones i havent seen

      16. Joshua Long December 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm

        Turkey shoot!

      17. Kevin Thompson December 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm

        Undead was pretty good, long but worth the watch.

      18. Trey Padgett December 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm

        I can’t believe Road Games didn’t make the list.

      19. Justin Lion Weiss December 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm

        Nolan Swafford

      20. Chris Owen December 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm

        I love Razorback-must have seen it about 10 times!

      21. Cathy Jo McGaha Bayer December 7, 2013 at 1:20 am

        They missed Feed. Grossed me out.

      22. Soxie Liqueur'e December 7, 2013 at 1:44 am

        Black Water, Dark Age, Howling 3, Patrick, Blood Hunt, 100 Bloody Acres, Dead End Drive-In

      23. pizzainacup December 7, 2013 at 2:57 am

        I liked Long Weekend (1978), Thirst (1979) and Night Of Fear (1972).

        Conversely, I disliked Howling III: The Marsupials (1987), Next Of Kin (1982), Patrick (1978), The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) and Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975).

        Ugh. You couldn’t pay me to watch Howling III and Next Of Kin again.

      24. Rui December 7, 2013 at 4:57 am

        I really liked The loved Ones, and will have to check Snowtown again, I started to wach, was taking it seriously and getting a little disturbed by it and all, but then it got a bit slow, I rolled a joint and next thing I know was making scrambled eggs or something and didn’t finish watching it. From what I saw and can remember, it did seem like a good movie. I don’t think I’ll be watching “Picnic”, sounds like the sort of movie that really disturbs me in a depressing way… not sure if I’ll watch Wolf Creek… another movie about an inbred hillbilly killing young tourists? But if you say it’s good, I’ll give it a try. I like Aussie movies.

        • Greg December 16, 2013 at 2:24 am

          Definitely check out Wolf Creek. I’ve seen it several times, it never disappoints!

      25. Lucas December 7, 2013 at 8:34 am

        I liked Cut with Molly Ringwald it was’nt a great movie but i think it was entertaining and alot better than the earlier slasher efforts like boathouse massacre, Bloodmoon or nightmares.

      26. Brandon Blake December 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm

        I’ve become a huge fan of Aussie Horror Films, over the past 10 years. They have a different feel or vibe to them. With that being said, there are a few films, on here, that I haven’t seen. So, thank you for that. However, SAW and SNOWTOWN being on the list… sorta threw me off. SAW is a massive franchise that needs no more exposure, in my opinion. SNOWTOWN, it was just boring. With that being said, I look forward to hearing about more unheard of Aussie films.

      27. PattiG December 9, 2013 at 5:44 pm

        I started watching Snowtown on Netflix. It was so disturbing and gruesome that I actually turned it off midway. I have a thick skin when it comes to horror movies, but this movie was just sickening.

      28. Anon February 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm

        Black Water.

      29. Ettil Vrye March 11, 2014 at 7:33 am

        WAKE IN FRIGHT????

      30. DK August 17, 2014 at 3:57 am

        I’ve probably missed the party but…

        Re: “Wolf Creek” – yes, it was horrifying although amusing at times (“THIS is a knife…) BUT what killed it for me was that with so many bodies lying around, the HUM would have been atrocious. Flies everywhere – and not the slow, lazy ones we get in North America – numerous, aggressive, find an open orifice and dig in flies. Not even Ivan Milat could have put up in reality with the shambolic mess the “Wolf Creek” movie killer had going.

        Re: “The Long Weekend” – Mostly it was just plain silly, a bit reminiscent of the US “Day of the Animals.” Which was also pretty silly. To replace it I’d recommend “The Last Wave” (1977?) which with its “nature running amuck” scenes and aboriginal myth trappings made for a far more interesting film, albeit perhaps more ‘supernatural’ than ‘horror.’ If memory serves it’s also by Peter Weir, who had previously directed “Picnic at Hanging Rock.”

        Re: Wake In Fright (1971) – Someone brought this up in the replies. It’s a great movie, replete with insights into the dark side of the Australian national character, but it isn’t a horror flick. It just sounds like it should be.

        I’ll vote for “Road Games,” which captured something of the Outback despite the two leads (Keach and Curtis) being Americans.

        I am surprised to find that “The Horseman” (2009) somehow didn’t make the cut. Gripping, viscerally violent, and very, very real.

        I’d also direct people to “Turkey Shoot” – renowned as one of the most over-the-top Aussie flicks of the 1970s – but I haven’t managed to see it yet myself.