Wake In Fright (1971)

3.8 out of 5 mad bastards

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of watching THE MOST AUSTRALIAN FILM OF ALL TIME. more Australian than a goonbag with a busted plugga singing Barnsey.

I also got to catch up with a mate in a basement and watch this film in the most atmospherically-appropriate place I have been in a while – so I’m looking to watching more ‘horror’ films there. Check out the basement of Format:

I would pay good money (good, minimum wage money) to watch all horror movies in this basement, sipping on home brew cider. 10/10 hosting.

I put the word ‘horror’ in quotes because I don’t think his film really qualifies as a horror. It is definitely a dark film, with a sense of creep and foreboding, and some weird bloodshed at some point – but it’s not designed to spook you so much as leave you feeling CHANGED.

Ol’ mate teacher from Sydney gets stuck in a remote town during the school holidays due to a busted game of TWO -UP and gets in with a crowd of battlers. While that is pretty much the plot, the cinematography, wardrobe and just complete atmosphere and Aussie-ness of the film really make this worthwhile. The whole thing’s also completely worth it for the short monologue on refusing to have a beer with someone:

“What’s the matter with you people?” John hollers. “You can burn your house down, murder your wife, rape your child. But if I don’t have don’t have a drink with you – if I don’t have a flaming bloody drink with you – that’s a criminal offence! That’s the end of the bloody world!”


I think this film would be creepier if someone who had never left the city, or was from overseas, watched it. But the truth is that the characters and what happens isn’t farfetched at all. Just the other week I got drunk at a country wedding and agreed to go shooting in the morning, then woke up like ‘WHAT?”. Australia is a strange, creepy kind of place.

According to Nick Cave, Wake in Fright is “the best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence.” I’d have to agree with Nicky here.

One last thing – Just when I thought this film had risen from obscurity and was going to return there, it turns out that Channel 10 have commissioned a remake to screen in 2017.

I can’t wait for that, and I will have to check out the OG novel as well.

If you aren’t one for gore, jump scares or even psychological terror, I would recommend Wake In Fright – it’s a real slow burning, Hitchcock-esque couple of hours of cinema that will really stay with you.


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