Van Diemen’s Land

Van Diemen’s Land, used by Anthony Trollope as

They are (the Vandemonians) united in their declaration that the cessation of the coming of convicts has been their ruin.

Diemen’s a word often associated with demon as an act of evil – then describe as convicts.

Van Diemen’s Land collected $290,000 at the Australian Box Office. Australia’s all time best grossing film was Crocodile Dundee with $328,000,000 worldwide.

Many critics have applauded Jonathan auf der Heide’s first directed film Van Diemen’s Land as a somewhat successful recollection of The Confessions of Alexander Pearce. With poetic music Heide takes the audience through an emotional experience, whilst we never understand the true personalities of the characters as we are left quite bewildered (a potential failing or success by Jonathan). If you’ve done your reading prior to watching this film you will expect the drama and the horror. However its not glorified and that what can potential sell films, it trickles down the lines of advertising the Tasmanian landscape abundant with lush forest and the whistling of birds and winding rivers. You get the feeling you learn more about the terrain than the characters.

It fails to push any boundaries, because it doesn’t need to. Unlike Snowtown which takes into account the families and the government Van Diemen’s Land makes no mistake it making the killings clear and red with blood as we see little of the overall cannibalistic ways. With only three every marked cannibals in Australian history, Alexander Pearce (Van Diemen’s Land), John Bunting (Snowtown) and Thomas Jefferies, two of which have films, Van Diemen’s Land plays no part in over doing the cannibalism.

With little social implications and boundaries to really push Heide goes about crafting a movie on an isolated landscape with various Gallic and English mumbling and the movie can become rather bewildering and long-winded.


Van Diemen’s Land is in my opinion very similar to many Australian films. Whilst elements of the film have been applauded the film remains largely undeveloped as a potential horror/zombie.  Australian Horror is a particularly growing genre in the Australian film industry.

 ‘One of the more curious things about Australian cinema are that is has produced so little horror. After all, the genre is primed with low-budgeting filmmaking with minimal sets and isolated locations. However, bar the occasional film… the genre has made virtually no inroads in Australian film’ (Gelder 2003).

Australia is a nation founded on the graphic horror violence by earlier settlers all the way through the our bizarre murder scenarios and extreme fetishes. But the beautiful thing about Australia is it provides the perfect location for horror. All types of isolation. It’s made for some great Australian horror like Wolf Creek and Snowtown. However, Australian film has failed to tap into successful fictional horror and this can be mainly blamed to our poor film industry infrastructure.

Van Diemen’s Land is a film that draws from the gruesome story of convict Alexander Pearce and how he ate his fellow seven convict escapees. The lack of character development means the audience struggles to grip the film. The portrayals of the deaths are something you look forward to. However, the deaths are expected and the rare nature of unexpected gasping is silenced.

Van Diemen’s Land fits into Australian horror because it fails to fit in anywhere else. Whilst its more gruesome the true nature of horror and raw sickening scenes are few and far between and fail to reach the true heights of horror. It’s disappointing a nation with all the natural locations and violent past has failed to generate more horror to impact on the world scale.

Van Diemen’s Land has some themes that allow it to be partial horror but not enough to class it as a true genuine horror. Van Diemen’s Land fails to exploit the true gruesome nature of horror and only dwells in some themes of the horror genre.



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