Tresspassers (2019)

A brother and his younger sister wander through searing heat to a big old farmhouse, a long way from their urban security. It is a set-up all too familiar from Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – except that the roadkill seen at the beginning is a kangaroo rather than an armadillo, making it clear from the outset that this is not the American South but the Great Southern Land. Lucy (Dana McNeill) and Ben (Riley Channells) were driving from Sydney to their parents’ rural home, and had taken the backroads to avoid traffic, when Ben’s car broke down in the middle of nowhere. Now on foot, and with no reception for their mobile phones, the pair stumble into the only property around, failing to notice the ‘Do Not Disturb – No Trespassing’ sign that has fallen by the fence.

When Ben taunts Lucy for being a ‘millennial’, she replies: “You’re a millennial too – you’re just going to die sooner.” For all its brevity, Jayden Creighton’s Trespassers comes full of foreboding, and while Australia has no shortage of homegrown cinema that riffs on the influence of Hooper – films like Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek (2005), Jamie Blank’s Storm Warning (2007), Cameron and Colin Cairnes’ 100 Bloody Acres (2012) and Chris Sun’s Charlie’s Farm (2014) – all these serve only to heighten the tension by raising expectations of entrapment and worse without offering any certainty as to what precisely the house owner (Andy Sparnon) has in store for his uninvited guests.  

Produced, written, directed and edited by Creighton as proof of concept for a feature, Trespassers works as a standalone short, but also introduces us to a whole new world of off-road exploitation horror just waiting to be explored further. Simple yet harrowing, it sketches the siblings with great economy, before placing them in a situation that is the very stuff of genre, yet at the same time ripped straight from the headlines. 

© Anton Bitel