06th Sep2018

‘Prying Eyes’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Brendan Byrne, Leoni Leaver, Rebecca Callander, Bob Clark | Written and Directed by Dane Millerd


There’s not a more overwrought and overused genre trope as the found footage format, at least in terms of direct to DVD movies, with many film makers using the format in place of having a decent story. Which means – at least for me – the sub-genre has become something of a nadir when it comes to horror.

However once in a while the format can be used to great effect, and this year there have been some stellar entries in the found-footage genre, be it in the cinema or on DVD: The Den, Willow Creek, Across the River, The Cellar and Black Water Vampire. And now you can add Aussie horror Prying Eyes (such a poor re-title of There’s Something in the Pilliga) to the list.

Australia has something of a tradition of producing some great exploitation movies, many of which use the Australian Outback as not only a setting, but also a character in itself. And director Dane Millerd’s film is no different. Shot on location in the actual Pilliga Forest of New South Wales, the film tackles the Australian legend of the Yowie, a mythical creature of Aboriginal origin which is seemingly the down under cousin of Bigfoot.

Filmed POV-style over the space of 16 days, Prying Eyes tells the story of  couple of bushies set out to uncover the truth behind the mysterious red eyes often observed at night in the Pilliga. Their journey begins in the pub where they team up with a couple of sheila’s keen to join in on the fun. Beer’d to the gills they head bush where peril awaits.

Given the proliferation of information on the interwebs, it’s not often you sit down to watch a horror film with little to no knowledge of the intricacies of the cast, the plot and (dare I say it) even the monster. However such was the case of this film. Beyond the poster and the official synopsis above I knew nothing of what to expect from Prying Eyes which, teamed with fact I watched the movie in a darkened room with headphones on, is probably why Millerd’s movie scared the living daylights out of me!

Starting out as something of a travelogue set in the outback, Prying Eyes had me bizarrely on the edge of my seat from the get-go. It’s hard to believe that footage of two guys pissing around in a truck, drinking, talking crap, drinking some more and then picking up two girls before driving around the outback could be so suspenseful… It’s the sense of anticipation, just waiting for something, anything, to happen that drives the real horror of this movie. You KNOW something’s coming, you just don’t know where or when. And when it does come? Well director Dane Millerd STILL keeps you guessing. Is there a monster out there? Or is it just a wild creature running amok? Or is it the mysteriously missing Hermes, a “friend” of one of the duo, who is responsible for what’s occurring?

Of course there are hints that what’s killing folk in the Pilliga Forest is something supernatural – the haunting red eyes staring out of the bushes, the strange noises – but it’s never really explained away. And we never really see anything. It’s at once frustrating (we all want answers when it comes to our movie “monsters” right?) and genius. By keeping most of the action within the audiences imagination and only hinting at the possibilities Millerd and co. really have created something on a par with what many consider the pinnacle of the genre: The Blair Witch Project. Only without the snot-laden whiny characters… these are Aussie’s after all!

It’s interesting to note that the scenes set in the darkness of the outback, with it’s monstrous sounds, also reminded me a lot of the 80s classic Razorback – the beastly sounds echoing through the darkness mirroring those in Russell Mulcahy’s film. And speaking of noises, who knew that mere sounds of Kookaburra’s could (as I tweeted out post-viewing) sound so bloody scary? The sound of the birds in the outback is not only used as ambient bush sound but also an attack on the audiences senses, building to a nerve-shattering crescendo at the films finale.

If there was ever a film to keep folks from ever visiting Australia and it’s vast dusty wilderness it’s Prying Eyes which, in my opinion, joins the pantheon of great modern “Ozploitation” cinema released such as Mondo Yakuza, Housebound, The Babadook, The Viper’s Hex and I Survived a Zombie Holocaust.

***** 5/5

Prying Eyes is out now on DVD from Black Neon/Bounty Films.


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