With the CBC’s Indigenous supernatural thriller series, Trickster premiering on NITV last night, it seemed like the perfect time to highlight horror films and tv series made by Indigenous creatives who have reclaimed the narrative and found a new way to tell their truth.
Blood Quantum (2019)
With the current attacks on the Mi’kmaq lobster fishers in Nova Scotia and the world in the midst of a pandemic, this film is more than just a timely watch.
I’ve been a big fan of Mi’kmaq director/writer, Jeff Barnaby’s work since I got the chance to see his short film, The Colony at an Indigenous Canadian Film Festival many years ago. However, I wasn’t sure Blood Quantum would make it to this side of the world but thanks to Shudder, the wait is over!
I really loved the concept in this film that Indigenous people, because of their blood, are immune to the virus which turns non-Indigenous people into zombies. But I also got the irony of the non-Indigenous town folk trying to gain access to the safe haven that the film’s fictional Red Crow Reserve has become for local survivors.
There are so many references, influences and the Director’s own life experiences which layer Blood Quantum that it’ll take more than one watch and a lot of googling later to understand it all but it’s worth diving in.
While you’re at it, give Barnaby’s debut feature Rhymes for Young Ghouls a watch as well. But just a warning that the film is set in the context of the residential school system so if you’re a member of Australia’s Stolen Generation or it’s a part of your family’s history then please be aware of this before watching.
Blood Quantum is now streaming on Shudder.
The Darkside (2013)
This film from Kaytej Director/Writer/Cinematographer Warwick Thornton is clever on so many levels and echoes the experimental approach to storytelling that BeDevil from Tracey Moffatt took in the early 1990s.
The Darkside weaves 13 ghost stories which were sourced from a public call out but it’s how Thornton chooses to present those stories that this film deserves a viewing.
The style of this film is hard to describe because Thornton has, I think, created his own style in the way he’s experimented in telling these stories which are mainly told through actor monologues however three of the stories are told by those who submitted them.
That’s where the lines are blurred for the viewer because you’re never really sure if the story really belongs to the person telling it. But maybe that’s the point in Thornton wanting you to consider what you believe and who you believe it from.
Either way, The Darkside is another entry in the history of Indigenous Australian filmmakers taking a western form of expression and making it their own.
The Dead Lands (2014)
To watch a supernatural adventure set in a time before colonisation and told in the Maori language is what makes this film one to watch.
The discovery of his unknown Maori ancestry inspired Glenn Standring to write The Dead Lands which was then brought to life by Fijian/British/New Zealand Director Toa Fraser.
- The use of Mau Rakau – a traditional Maori martial art form, brings another dimension to the film’s fighting scenes set against an imagined depiction of what Maori society might have looked like 500-800 years ago.
Dark Place (2019)
While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander filmmakers are strongly represented across documentary, drama and comedy, horror is now starting to make inroads as well.
What came out of the Shock Treatment initiative from Screen Australia and the ABC is a collection of short horror films from five Indigenous filmmakers who have delved into the gore, the gothic and the gruesome.
All five films are at various spectrums of the horror genre from the sleep deprived psychological horror Foe, schlock horror offering of Killer Native (which is in development to become a feature film), to an Indigenising of Australian gothic, they all add their own voice to the genre which fits together well in this anthology.
Dark Place explores the horrors of colonisation and how that continues to echo through the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Watch Dark Place on ABC iview now.
It goes without saying that this trilogy of ghost stories from Director/Writer/Artist, Tracey Moffat is an Australian classic.
Set across three locations, it directly questions the filmmaking and storytelling process, challenging the viewer to take the journey Moffatt has laid out regardless of whether it makes sense in a western notion of how the narrative should be.
BeDevil takes the concept and uses film to experiment with it while drawing on other artistic practices as part of her storytelling process.
It’s unique and like nothing else in the canon of Indigenous Australian filmmaking.
BeDevil is an important legacy work for future generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander filmmakers.
Find this Australian classic on SBS on demand before Nov 23rd, 2020.
The Dead Can’t Dance (2010)
I love an Indigenous filmmaker who wants to see themselves represented in pop culture and creates the change they want to see.
That’s pretty much what Comanche, Pawnee and Shawnee Director/Writer Rodrick Pocowatchit did when he started producing and starring in his own independent films.
In The Dead Can’t Dance, three Comanche men discover that they’re immune to a virus which is turning everyone else into zombies after their car breaks down.
The opening of this film is yet another example of changing the expectation of how a story should begin. There’s 8mins before anyone talks as the opening credits roll and this film begins.
Pocowatchit is clearly a fan of zombie flicks but puts his own spin on an undead comedy which makes it an entertaining watch.
Watch The Dead Can’t Dance on youtube.
Shadow Trackers TV Series (2016)
If you enjoy those paranormal investigation reality tv shows, then this is sure to give you an Indigenous version of that.
Written and Directed by Dena Curtis, Shadow Trackers follows Hunter Page-Lochard and Zac James as they hear from local Elders and storytellers about strange happenings and investigate for themselves.
It’s a fascinating look at the stories held within Aboriginal communities but also the way in which they’re told and passed down within individual families.
Shadow Trackers is currently on SBS on demand.
If you get through these recommendations and want more then tune into Vision Maker Media’s Nightmare Vision: Indigenous Horror Film Fest which will be on demand or you can join their watch party on Saturday 31st Oct and Sunday 1st Nov at 11am Sydney time.
Catch Trickster Tuesday night, 8:30pm on NITV
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