Lost Things (2004)

Lost Things first published by VODzilla.co

On their way to a secluded beach for a weekend of surfing, camping and maybe sex, four teenagers pull off the road to look at the map and try to work out where they are. “I feel like I’ve been here before,” says Brad (Charlie Garber), staring in a daze towards the sun – before he rejoins Gary (Leon Ford), Emily (Lenka Kripac) and Tracey (Alex Vaughan) in the Combi van to continue their journey. Always the clown, Gary drives the van around in circles several times before getting back on the road.

This scene from near the beginning of Martin Murphy’s Lost Things encapsulates something essential about the whole film. “There’s something about this place that’s weird,” says Tracey of the bushland-and-beach setting that is their final destination – and it seems that here the foursome will always be lost, always travelling in circles, often staring in bewilderment at the sun – or the moon – and investing their naturalistic seeming environment with an uncanny sense of déjà vu. They soon begin to suspect that they may be destined to replay the fate of the last teenagers who visited this littoral landscape. “Three people died here, kids like you,” as the mysterious adult surfer Zippo (Stephen Le Marquand) warns them with his brooding masculine menace. “You shouldn’t be anywhere near here.” As venomous serpents appear in the dunes, what should be a sandy paradise soon takes on the appearance of an infernal trap.

Written by award-winning Australian playwright Stephen Sewell, Lost Things is an eerie mystery that channels the shoreline setting and creeping dread of classic nature’s revenge Ozploitationer Long Weekend (1978), and something of the hallucinatory disorientation of outback enigma Picnic at Hanging at Rock (1975). To the accompaniment of Carlo Giacco’s unsettling synth score and Andrew Belletty’s unnerving sound design (all mournful raven caws and the overamped tinkling of spinifex in the wind), our four principal players have become caught in a moment on the cusp of adulthood. As we see each one of them staring out to the the vast ocean beyond, with the ripples just washing over their toes, we are also witnessing that liminal moment of adolescence when both mortality and the infinite come within sight, bringing with them a fear of being overwhelmed. “I’m frightened,” Emily tells her would-be lover Brad. “Of what’s going to happen, of what the future might hold.” Meanwhile, virginal Brad, jealous of the much older Zippo’s assured machismo, tells Gary, “I want to be like the surfer guy, but I’m not. I’m just me and I’m a fucking idiot. Shit, mate, we’re never going to grow up.”

As we watch its characters watching one another frozen in the space between land and water, ultimately the narrative of Lost Things limns a peculiar kind of looping stasis – but its horror derives not only from ritualised murder, but also, and more importantly, from the anxiety that comes with change. For as Brad, Emily, Paul and Tracey first test the waters, hesitating to take their full plunge into adulthood, they are confronted with the bleakest of existential questions about who they are and what they want. In these rites of passage, something must be sacrificed – and then forever lost.

Summary: Carnival Of Souls reconfigured as an Ozploitation enigma of adolescence.

© Anton Bitel