Australian filmmakers have reached international audiences in recent years with their uniquely gruesome horror movies, but the scary storytelling tradition in Aussie cinema spans decades. Jennifer Kent shocked audiences with her 2014 debut The Babadook, and this harrowing horror flick is just the tip of the iceberg.
Australia feels like a foreign land for Western moviegoers. With its seemingly endless Outback and unrecognizable flora and fauna, the continent that is also a country is rife with imaginative potential. Australian horror movie makers play on these open expectations in their films, both subverting and playing into outside assumptions.
10 The Babadook (2014)
The Babadook‘s domestic setting is what makes the terror unfolding within its 90 minutes all the more frightening. The movie focuses on a widowed mother reeling from the violent death of her husband in a car crash.
Essie Davis plays Amelia Vanek, whose son Samuel starts complaining about a monster lurking in the house – a monster Amelia comes to believe is all too real. What ensues is a scary, yet engrossing, story of survival, trauma, and moving on from unimaginable loss.
9 Patrick (1978)
This underrated supernatural thriller unfolds within the confines of an Australian hospital. In Patrick, the titular character is a comatose man whose telekinetic abilities turn violent when he becomes jealous of everyone in his favorite nurse’s life.
From his hospital bed, Patrick dispatches his perceived enemies left and right out of a demented desire to have the nurse, Kathie, all to himself. Patrick is directed by Richard Franklin, who is known for helming another ’70s horror classic: Long Weekend.
8 The Loved Ones (2009)
Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones tackles one taboo subject after another. After high schooler Brent turns down his classmate Lola’s invitation to prom, Lola decides she won’t take no for an answer.
Instead, Lola enlists the help of her father – with whom she maintains an incestuous relationship – to kidnap Brent and have her own prom celebration at home. When Brent wakes up tied to a chair in Lola’s kitchen, he comes to realize he’s in for a wild and painful night.
7 Killing Ground (2017)
Killing Ground finds a young couple on a camping trip forced into a nightmare of epic proportions. Ian and Sam find an abandoned campsite near a waterfall; soon later, they stumble upon a child walking alone through the wilderness – prompting Ian and Sam to realize they are at serious risk.
It doesn’t take long for a pair of demented, murderous locals to make their presence known, which launches Ian and Sam into a fight for survival. Brutally realistic, Killing Ground is an intense, at times relentless, tale of survival.
6 Rogue (2007)
What’s a list of Australian horror movies without at least one crocodile creature feature? Rogue is an indie gem that actually lives up to expectations of what a monster movie should be: entertaining, grisly, and just kitschy enough.
Based on true stories of a giant croc named Sweetheart who attacked boats in the 1970s, Rogue centers around a 25-foot people eater who goes after a group of tourists on a river cruise. Michael Vartan, Sam Worthington, and Radha Mitchell star in the film, which is directed by Wolf Creek‘s Greg McLean.
5 Relic (2020)
The most recent horror feature on this list, Relic is another film about intergenerational trauma and its ability to destroy family units. Emily Mortimer stars as a woman who travels with her daughter (Bella Heathcote) to her childhood home after her elderly mother goes missing.
What mother and daughter find is beyond comprehension: the matriarch mysteriously reappears, but with a supernatural force looming in the background. A slow-burner for sure, Relic‘s metaphorical conclusion isn’t for fans who desire concrete, happy endings.
4 The Marshes (2017)
A group of biologists find themselves hunted by a cannibalistic madman in this understated, nature-driven movie from Roger Scott. The Marshes lacks much of a plot beyond this basic premise, but it’s rife with atmospherics and alarming imagery.
Instead of depicting blood and guts, The Marshes implies most of its violence – which makes the few torture sequences viewers glimpse all the more horrific. The result is a slasher movie with experimental undertones.
3 Roadgames (1981)
Americans Stacy and Jamie Lee Curtis star in this road-tripping horror feature that is also directed by Patrick‘s Richard Franklin. Keach plays a truck driver in Australia who engages in a cat-and-mouse game with a serial killer cutting up young women along his route.
When Keach’s character Quid picks up Curtis’s hitchhiking character Pamela, they decide to use Pamela as bait to capture the murderer themselves. Things don’t go as planned for the pair, though, as the slayer manages to stay one step ahead of them.
2 Lake Mungo (2008)
Lake Mungo is a prime example of a horror mockumentary. Combining found footage with docufiction narration, Joel Anderson’s movie puts together a chilling story about a family that experiences supernatural phenomena after the drowning of their 16-year-old daughter Alice.
With the help of psychics and parapsychologists, Alice’s family comes to believe the girl’s spirit is unsettled in death. As they uncover secrets about Alice’s life, her parents and brother realize why she’s haunting them.
1 Cargo (2017)
Considered one of the more original zombie films in recent years, Cargo transpires in the Australian Outback. Martin Freeman plays a father stranded with his young daughter in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by a pandemic that turns its victims into the walking dead.
When Freeman’s character Andy becomes infected, he knows he only has 48 hours to find a safe place for his daughter Rosie before he turns. Andy relies on a group of Aborigines for help and guidance.
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