Dark Place: FrightFest 2020 review

We review the ground-breaking anthology Aboriginal Australian feature, Dark Place.

Assembled by a group of talented Australian indigenous filmmakers is horror anthology Dark Place, serving up five well-crafted tales for us to enjoy.

First up we are introduced to ‘scout’, who’s being held captive for what initially seems to be a sex slavery ring, but it becomes quickly apparent that this is a far more sinister state of affairs. ‘Scout’ (by Kodie Bedford) certainly fulfils its role in setting the tone for Dark Place, kicking things off with its unsettling nature and disorientating visual work.

Liam Phillips’ ‘Foe’ introduces some Paranormal Activity vibes to proceedings, when Eleanor (who’s recovering from a tragic event involving her family) starts to question her own sanity and begins filming herself asleep to try and make sense of it all. The coverage of feeling isolated and losing touch certainly feels poignant under current circumstances. Overall, ‘Foe’ is a relatively understated affair, though perhaps not as thought-provoking as other entries in the anthology.

Next up, ‘Vale Light’ (by Rob Braslin) tells a story of young single mother, Shae, and her young daughter Isabelle who have just moved into a new home following a mysterious fire in their last residence (potentially caused by Isabelle herself…). Similar to ‘Foe’ in terms of the family focus, this one also sticks with the more subtle approach, whilst concluding in a pretty chilling manner.

Going a bit against the grain is Perun Bonser’s ‘The Shore’ which presents us with a black and white, art-house style piece (and the shortest of the bunch), offering a mind-bending and visually arresting tale. It’s essentially a silent movie (with close to no dialogue) which confidently leaves a lasting impression in its ambiguous nature…

It’s upon getting to the last entry where things get totally bizarre, with a huge tonal shift from everything prior in Bjorn Stewart’s ‘Killer Native’, an Evil Dead inspired horror/comedy gorefest. ‘Killer Native’ follows a British couple in the colonial period searching for a new home in the Australian outback, where they find themselves being hunted by an indigenous monster protecting its land. The sheer level of violence and inclusion of humour certainly caught us off guard (but welcomingly so), overall offering up a wild and worthy conclusion to the anthology.

In Dark Place, the variety of stories cleverly and succinctly tie together by not only addressing the struggles that Australian indigenous inhabitants still very much face, but they all deliver this message with an empowering and strongly-led female cast.

It’s never an easy task putting together a range of shorts in this format and finding the desired outcome, but with a lean running time of 75 mins, Dark Place provides an enjoyable and intriguing variety of themes and genres. This is a clever horror anthology, mixing genuinely chilling horror (without relying too heavily on jump scares) with a dash of gore (we’re looking at you ‘Killer Native’).

Dark Place has its UK premiere at Arrow Video FrightFest on 29 August.