02nd Sep2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘Dark Place’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Nelson Baker, Katherine Beckett, Shakira Clanton, Bernard Curry | Directed by Kodie Bedford, Liam Phillips, Robert Braslin, Perun Bonser, Bjorn Stewart

Apparently commissioned to promote First Australian talent, Dark Place is a ground-breaking anthology feature telling a quintet of indigenous tales, each around 15 minutes in length, and using largely indigenous casts. All of which approach post-colonial Aboriginal Australian history through the though-provoking lenses of historical parallels, horror, gore and fantasy.

Dark Place opens with the short Scout, a a strong opening that sets the tone for the rest of the film – dealing with a group of aboriginal women who’ve been kidnapped as part of a human trafficking ring, touching on the value of life, in particular the life of minorities and how under-valued they really are. It starts out on a downward note, really showing us the despair and danger these women are in, before taking a turn into revenge-film territory. Eventually ending on a high note – the only real high note in this entire anthology!

Which is probably a great reflection on the First Australian experience, something that is core to each and every story in Dark Place. Speaking of stories, Foe is up next and it’s the weakest in terms of story but the strongest in terms of emotional content, really tapping into ideas about personal identity, family and mental health (in this case a form of dissociative disorder) and, again, how that relates to First Australians.

Things pick in terms of pacing and excitement with the mid-film segment Vale Light – in which a single mother and her daughter move into a new estate next door to your typical “nosey neighbour”. You know the type – wants to be in your business, encroaching on your personal space. Of course as a mother you worry about such things. And she’s right to nee worried as this neighbour has less than good intentions. Yet no-one expects what is to come… A great metaphor for the colonisation of the First Australian people and their struggle to fight back and take control, Vale Light is definitely a high point in this anthology.

Unfortunately the next tale in Dark Place is the weakest. Shore, shot in black and white, is an eerie vampire tale that is more style than substance – though what style it has is very beautiful and certainly shows director Perun Bonser has a fantastic eye for visuals.

The last short, Killer Natives, has reportedly been optioned for a full feature and – honestly – its easy to see why. A splatstick comedy in the tradition of Bad Taste and Braindead, complete with ridiculously over the top scenes of gore and grue, Killer Native tells the story of a British invader staking out to make himself and his pregnant wife a home in the Australian outback. Only the outback fights back, as a First Australian: an undead angry woman, has other ideas. Ideas that involve eviscerations of multiple kinds (yes, beware those of a weak stomach) and a sting the tale that once again sees an indigenous filmmaker make a statement of the First Australian experience. And its damn funny too – bleak, dark humour done brilliantly!

A fantastic anthology, for the most part filled with stories we haven’t seen before, Dark Place is a intriguing look at the genre from an all-new perspective and as such is essential viewing for horror fans.

**** 4/5

Dark Place screened on Saturday August 29th as part of this years Frightfest Digital Edition.


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