Dark Place is a new generation Australian Aboriginal horror anthology that serves up five spicy tales heavily influenced by the scars carved by colonial injustice. The film oscillates wildly in both texture and tone, yet the spiky motifs of subjection, comeuppance and recovered identity are constant components of a mutual agenda.
Thankfully, this spirited compendium abandons the traditional route of establishing a tenuous linking story. The confident shorts on offer here need no such clumsy connective tissue to achieve a symbiosis of narrative drive. Instead, the films rely on the shared experience of historical oppression to generate a much more subtle and organic sense of thematic flow. Enforced familial detachment, circumstantial dehumanisation, the disastrous introduction of epidemic diseases and the physical barbarism of locks and chains are just a few of the postcolonial demons exorcised by Dark Place.
First up to the plate is the beyond gritty Scout from writer/director Kodie Bedford. During her stint as a cadet journalist at SBS, she was subjected to a level of habitual racism that left her mental health in tatters. A brutal tale of female sex slaves imprisoned in a hellish ghetto of shipping containers, Bedford grabs the catharsis shotgun and repeatedly empties both barrels into the ugly face of bigotry.
It’s a beautifully acted and ruthlessly executed piece that compels you to feel the rage and taste the venom of its maker’s fury.
Next comes Foe from Liam Phillips, a sharply edited study of a young woman with a sinister sleep disorder. Almost Lynchian in ambience, it deals with loss, helplessness and the false perception of self with maturity and style.
Next, it’s time for Rob Braslin to transport us to the heart of a Tasmanian public housing commission estate in his domestic supernatural thriller Vale Light. Vibrant cinematography and a fabulous cast light up this fable of a young mother striving to break a cycle of destructive disenfranchisement. Concise in its storytelling, it blends witchcraft with social commentary and packs more than one killer twist in its brief running time.
Then Dark Place shifts into Arthouse gear with the black and white moodiness of Perun Bonser’s creature segment The Shore. Lensed and paced in a manner that recalls the criminally underseen The Eyes of My Mother it concerns a young woman who lives alone in a remote cabin with her dad. There are less than subtle visual clues to the films ethereally abstract denouement but the journey is an aesthetically fulfilling one.
Finally, we enter the realms of splatter farce with Bjorn Stewart’s outrageous gorefest Killer Native. This intestine ripping period yarn is a total riot from start to finish and sees a British settler couple attacked by a smallpox infected zombie woman. The genuinely hilarious script bristles with memorable one-liners and the organ festooned visuals deliver a disgraceful act of movie cannibalism that redraws the battle lines of slapstick atrocities.
Killer Native is currently being made into a full-length feature, so for the first time in decades, the blood-spattered carnage crown of Peter Jacksons’ Bad Taste may be at stake.
As you might expect, Dark Place is a relatively angry film with some truly disturbing imagery, wince-inducingly categorical racism and spectacular violence. However, there is an overall coda of hope and a tangible air of reclamation at play that forges an empathetic and inspirative bond with the audience.
Entertaining, depressing and enlightening by turns, this spunky barrage of raw talent is a beacon of optimism for grassroots cinema. More tellingly, it is a rigged deck of calling cards from a fresh team of true cultural custodians poised to give Ozploitation an intellectual and artistic upgrade.
HORROR CHANNEL SCREEN – 9.30 PM – SATURDAY 29TH AUGUST
Horror, Anthology | Australia 2019 | 75 mins | One Eyed Films | Dirs. Kodie Bedford, Perun Bonser, Rob Braslin, Liam Phillips, Bjorn Stewart | With: Nelson Baker, Katherine Beckett, Shakira Clanton