Art by Travis Wilker
Let me just start with this, Australia is a terrifying place before you inject a horror film into it. Everything there wants to kill you, they have spiders the size of footballs!!!!! FOOTBALLS!!!! There are parts of the country that nobody lives in because the conditions are simply unlivable. Australia is simply not meant for humans. I can’t go for that. Now take all that and put it in a horror film, and you’ve got some of the gnarliest, brutal and unforgiving subgenre horror films in existence. There’s a certain brutality about Australian horror films, and most Australian films in general. Nature is always indifferent to the characters, and once you get outside the cities it’s like a wasteland. There’s a reason why George Miller was able to set Mad Max in the outback, it’s already apocalyptic, you don’t have to dress it up. It’s just not meant for humans.
Bees are my number one fear (You seen Candyman? That film fucked me up, I didn’t know there were gonna be bees in it) but Australia is definitely a close number two. I never want to go there. A large part of that is because of the terrifying horror films that have come out of Australia, so that’s what we’re power ranking here because one of my favorite things to do is power rank – Australian Horror films power ranked by how much they make me terrified of Australia and make me never want to go there.
Directed by Wolf Creek maestro Greg McLean, this creature feature rides a great balance between being campy and terrifying. Even though the giant crocodile is made by C-grade CGI, the filmmaking helps it rise above that limitation and craft a genuinely scary film because I totally believe that there are giant crocodiles trying to maniacally kill you in Australia.
8. Picnic at Hanging Rock
I wouldn’t call this a horror film, but it is definitely one of the most haunting films I’ve ever seen. Those girls just straight up disappeared man, just disappeared and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Only in Australia can you just disappear like you’re going to another dimension and I’ll believe it happened because Australia is terrifying.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy, who would go on to direct the classic Highlander as well as episodes of my beloved Teen Wolf, made his debut with this bonkers film. It’s basically Jaws but set in the outback with a razorback pig in place of the shark terrorizing the locals. It’s quite possibly one of the most insane films I’ve ever seen. The opening scene has the razorback crash through a house, kidnap a baby and then the house explodes. It’s incredible. But what makes the film truly scary, is that I could definitely see a gigantic pig causing this much damage because it’s in Australia.
6. The Babadook
They got Babadooks in Australia, I’m not going there.
5. Road Games
One of the greatest Hitchcock films that Hitchcock never made, this film is hard to track down but definitely worth the effort. It’s essentially Rear Window but set on the highways of Australia, and it works a whole lot better than that sounds. The openness of the outback just heightens the possibility that any horrible act could go down there and nobody would know, and the film knows this. Also, Stacy Keach is incredible, keeping you on edge about who to trust and what you really know about what’s happening.
Tense and moody, this film would be unbearable if it wasn’t so damn well made. Based on a true spree of murders in the 90s, you terrifyingly understand how these vulnerable kids could be convinced and controlled into committing murders for their new father figure. Utterly terrifying work by director Justin Kurzel. I’m never going to Australia because based on their films there are a lot of serial killers just running around doing their thing. No thank you sir, that’s not for me.
3. The Loved Ones
The main descriptor I keep for this deranged film is “refreshingly disturbing”. It more than earns it. One of the most brutal, bonkers films in recent memory, it keeps finding new and inventive ways to further disturb you with each sequence. Seek this film out. I can’t talk about this film without revealing the zany twists and turns it takes, and I want you to experience them cold. Just trust me on this one. I’m never going to Australia, just about everyone there is down to torture and kill you.
2. Killing Ground
I caught this one at Sundance a few years ago, and was glad I picked it instead of the film I was originally planning on catching. Killing Ground is a great addition to the Australian horror genre, relentlessly brutal and unforgiving with great filmmaking and terrific performances. After I watched this film at Sundance, I finally decided firmly that I would never go to Australia. Their films just tell me there are way too many places for people to torture and kill you and probably get away with it. I can’t go for that. No can do.
1. Wolf Creek/Wolf Creek 2
Every subgenre has its masterpiece – Australian horror has two. Greg McLean’s American films range from underwhelming to almost unwatchable, but his native Australian work is top tier. The framework for each is simple – loosely based off of real serial killers who hunted tourists, Mick Taylor is a hunter who roams the outback in search of tourists to torture and kill. The first film is one of the only films Roger Ebert walked out of, and I can’t blame him. It’s a bleak and unforgiving film that only travels further that direction as it goes on. Wolf Creek is brutal and terrifying, but Wolf Creek 2 is twice as brutal and terrifying while also hilarious on a black hole level of humor. It’s like what The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 did, doubled up on what made the first great and then lost its mind with gonzo campy humor. Featuring astoundingly magnetic and gripping performances by John Jarratt, the character of Mick Taylor is an instant icon of horror, right up there with Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees. Jarratt rides this perfect line of being hilarious to the viewer while also being utterly horrifying. You just don’t know what’s gonna happen when he’s on screen, and it’s a thrill to sit in that uncertainty. Now when I quote “That’s not a knife…this is a knife!” I’m quoting Mick Taylor rather than Crocodile Dundee, he just makes that line his own. Wolf Creek is great, but Wolf Creek 2 is superior in every way, shape and form. It’s honestly one of the best sequels ever made, even outside of the horror genre. I’m never going to Australia because Mick Taylor is there.