Dark Place

Dark Place (2019)

Dark Place first published by VODzilla.co

While there are plenty of horror anthology films, far fewer are made by, and concerned with, indigenous Australians. Joining Tracey Moffat’s ghost story triptych BeDevil (1993) and Warwick Thornton’s The Darkside (2013), Dark Place is a collection of five tales by five different directors, all refracting Aboriginal experience through a genre prism.

First in the anthology is Kodie Bedford’s Scout, in which an abducted and sex-trafficked Aboriginal woman (Katherine Beckett) turns the tables – and the mirror – on her  male oppressors, thus offering cathartic redemption for Aboriginal slaves, the Stolen Generations and abused women. In Rob Braslin’s Vale Light, Aboriginal single mother Shae (Tasia Zalar) moves into a suburban housing estate where her young mixed-race daughter Isabelle (Jolie Everett) discovers a strange connection with their well-travelled neighbour Diane (Sara Pensalfini) who is both an appropriator of native artefacts and a powerful witch.

My two favourite stories in the anthology both dealt with the contradictions of uprooted identity. In Liam Phillips’ Foe, a conflicted young urban Aboriginal woman (Leonie Whyman) who has turned her back on her community, her family and the artistic legacy of her later mother finds her home and her body being invaded at night by a malicious alter ego. And in Perun Bronser’s monochrome The Shore, after a white man is viciously attacked and killed by something from the lake, his confused mixed-race daughter finds herself caught between the vampiric water spirit outside, and the monster that she denies within herself – a struggle that unfolds in a suitably ambiguous, littoral space.

Closing off the collection is Bjorn Stewart’s Killer Native, a colonial-era caper – playing out in a swearing, farting register of broad comedy – that pits a couple of young, hopeless white settlers (Charlie Garber, Lily Sullivan) from London against infected natives (Clarence Ryan, Natasha Wanganeen) who want only to take back what has been stolen from them.

All these stories stage – in some cases even fancifully resolve – tensions and traumas within the Aboriginal community, ensuring that there is plenty of unusual, urgent subtext to this uncanny omnibus.

Strap: This five-part horror anthology turns the tensions and trauma of Aboriginal experience into genre chills.

Anton Bitel