Australian Horror

Australia is a nation founded through the exploration of the British and their convict cargo. Establishing convict settlements across the nation, Australia has always explored its dark past to extract fascinating information.

With the dangerous characters of:

Ned Kelly
Martin Bryant
Ivan Mirlat
Bradley Murdoch
John Bunting 

Its the human fascination of what is unnatural and gruesome that makes Australian Horror and Zombie purely unique. Australian portrayal of our infamous murders is often tied with our cultural and environmental settings. Isolation.

Van Diemen’s Land role in Australian Cinema

Jonathan auf der Heide’s Van Diemen’s Land leaves little to our imagination. His gruelling recollection of Alexander Pearce’s story has been labelled somewhat ‘strikingly close’. The isolation is increasingly present in an otherwise dark and gloomy film. The Cameras continue to pan the Tasmanian landscape showing its vast and deadly nature. In a film that uses shades of black, grey and dark green it makes for the presence bright blood-shed to be one horror, meaining another victim has fallen to Pearce’s pallet of taste.

The Age Entertainment writer Jake Wilson states what has become iconic in many Australian films as it’s  ‘a bold attempt at a full-throttle Australian art movie, Van Diemen’s Land disappoints mainly when it falls back on convention. I could have done without most of the music by Jethro Woodward, which is bluesy and moody in a familiar way’

SBS reviewer Simon Foster enjoyed the assertive nature of Heide’s first film. Foster wrote ‘the film’s momentum rests on the sociological and psychological interaction between the group members. Unfortunately, the intensity of this interaction wavers, and the narrative gets bogged down on occasion, relying heavily on voice-over (Pearce’s surprisingly-profound existential mutterings) or atmospheric music and location’.

Van Diemen’s Land unlike Australian International seller Wolf Creek has some distinctive differences, although both subscribe to the title true there is definitely some element of fiction to entice the audience. The success around Wolf Creek comes because it does what it intends to do, frighten people and lead them to believe most parts are true. Whilst Van Diemen’s Land is a horror its attempt is to be more subtle and somehow gruesome. Heide has created a film we’re the film repels us but also entices our nature of how could you?

‘Australian horror films similarly engage with and negotiate horror conventions within the context of Australian cinema’ (Ryan, 2008) as location is Australian Cinema’s go-to-point when capturing isolation and horror. Australian horror films use our vast  location to ultimately pin the audience down. Wolf Creek set in outback Australia with a lack of humans and the infinite red sandy soil glazed across the territory gives the audience the feeling off been alone. Van Diemen’s Land is no exception to this rule and the harsh lush forest of Tasmania provides no food for Pearce and his fellow seven convict escapees.

The Australian film Snowtown whilst set in an urban sprawl surrounding soon ventures to the isolation factor, as murderer/torturer John Bunting uses an small outback country town and an abandoned bank to stash, torturer and ultimately murder his victims. The feeling of isolation strikes the heart as we sit on edge seeing a stereotypical Aussie bloke do his best to torture innocent people, much like Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek. As we know Alexander Pearce is no Aussie bloke more or less a basic convict who fed on seven other humans in order to survive. However it is these stories of infamous convicts who make up Australia’s devilish past like Ned Kelly. We may not praise their actions nor celebrate their lives but yet they are hung up as Australian icons (maybe not good ones) but they provide a true Aussie story ultimately defying some odds.


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