Into the Outback of Horrors – Exploring Australia’s Essential Chillers
While one may expect Australia’s horror output to showcase the continent’s infamous wildlife, the country’s most impactful genre films tap into a deeper unease. Beyond deadly snakes and crocodiles, Australian horror often explores the menace lurking within the remote wilderness and behind the façade of suburban normalcy.
Films like Wolf Creek and Road Games prey on fears of the desolate Outback, where help is distant and strangers turn savage without warning. The isolation of the dusty backroads and sun-bleached deserts conceal terrors both human and supernatural. Meanwhile works like Hounds of Love and The Babadook suggest that even suburban homes can harbor unspeakable evils next door. Recent elevated horror in the vein of The Babadook trades in slow-burning dread, but Australian horror has largely trafficked in brutal, uncompromising violence.
Wolf Creek and its sequel tell ruthless stories of terrorized backpackers with grim realism, while films like Killing Ground subject camping trips to similar savage violence. And The Loved Ones brought inventive new shocks to the torture porn trend of the 2000s with its darkly comedic and obsessive horrors. To be included here, films must be Australian-made and set, with over 10 published reviews.
While not traditional horror, the taut maritime thriller Dead Calm earns a spot for its white-knuckled intensity and squirm-inducing tension. The same goes for harrowing crime story Snowtown Murders, with its grim, unforgettable brutality centered on the infamous bodies-in-barrels murders. Some may contest the inclusion of these non-supernatural films, but their merciless impact can’t be denied.
Spanning slashers, supernatural tales, creature features, and more, these essential films prove Australia houses distinctive voices in horror cinema. Beyond exploitation of local wildlife, the continent’s wide open spaces harbor deep-set unease. So journey now past the tourist-friendly coasts deep into the darkness of the Outback, where untold horrors both human and inhuman await in the sun-parched bush.
20 Films Showcasing Australian Talent
These Films are either directed by Australian filmmakers, produced in Australia, or have significant Australian themes or settings.
- The Babadook (2014) – Jennifer Kent’s atmospheric haunted house tale brings supernatural horror home with its story of a widow tormented by a sinister children’s book character. Slow-building dread and allegory about grief.
- Razorback (1984) – Russell Mulcahy’s Outback creature feature pits a widowed hunter against a monstrous wild razorback boar terrorizing the Australian bush. B-movie thrills on a wild man vs. beast premise.
- Wolf Creek (2005) – Brutal horror-thriller from Greg McLean about backpackers stalked by a savage serial killer in the remote Outback. Controversial for its graphic violence.
- The Loved Ones (2009) – Blackly comic torture horror where a demented girl abducts a boy who rejected her as a prom date. Stylish, shocking mix of humor and violence.
- Road Games (1981) – Suspenseful slasher from Richard Franklin featuring Jamie Lee Curtis evading a mysterious truck driver killer in the deserted Outback. Hitchcockian thrills.
- Dead Calm (1989) – A taut psychological maritime thriller from Phillip Noyce about a couple whose sailing trip turns terrifying when they rescue a stranger. Often classified as a horror-adjacent thriller.
- Long Weekend (1978) – Eerie and prescient eco-horror where nature seems to strike back against an abusive couple camping in the Outback wilderness. Moody and ominous.
- Lake Mungo (2008) – Pseudo-documentary entry blending real interviews and staged footage to analyze a family following their daughter’s drowning “accident.” More melancholy than frightening.
- The Tunnel (2011) – Clever indie picking up the found footage torch, capturing a news crew’s descent into the nightmarish tunnels beneath Sydney. Claustrophobic and creepy.
- Hounds of Love (2016) – Unflinching crime horror focused on a teenage girl captured by a disturbed couple. Based on gruesome real life cases.
- Snowtown (2011) – Stark true crime dramatization of the infamous Snowtown “bodies in barrels” killings. More unsettling than scary.
- Saw (2004) – Iconic torture horror franchise spawned from James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s low budget original about victims chained in an underground bunker.
- Undead (2003) – Zombie action horror with political satire from the Spierig brothers. Full of creative DIY visual effects on a microbudget.
- The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) – Peter Weir’s offbeat directorial debut about a remote town that orchestrates car crashes to salvage supplies. Cult black comedy/horror.
- Wyrmwood (2014) – Gory zom-com hybrid following an Outback mechanic striving to rescue his sister after a zombie outbreak. Graphic practical effects.
- Patrick (1978) – An early entry in psycho-kinetic horror about a comatose young man who develops telepathic powers. Low key but influential.
- Howling III (1987) – Campy Oz spin on the werewolf franchise relocating the creatures to the Outback. Notable for atrocious special effects.
- Dying Breed (2008) – Backwoods slasher with foundations in Tasmanian legends of extinct cannibalistic tigers. By-the-numbers but sufficiently gory.
- The Reef (2010) – Tense aquatic thriller finding a group of oceanic tourists stalked by a great white shark. Lean and mean creature feature.
- Feed (2005) – Cyberpunk-influenced horror about force-feeding fetishists able to enter others’ minds. More weird than terrifying.
There’s a diversity of horror styles here, from brutal slashers to satirical horror-comedies to cerebral chillers. But certain themes recur, like the remote Outback as a place where humans become prey.