Culture / Film

Wake in fright – 10 of the best Australian horror films

If there's one thing Australia does well it's horror. Maybe it's the arid, outsized landscapes and the way they speak to alienation (see: the slew of Outback thrillers) or how our drawl-like accent can be sharpened to an ominous pitch, perhaps it's simply our dark humour. All I know is that there's plenty of local ground to cover if you have an appetite for horror. As the Philippou brother's Talk To Me is toasted by critics as the best horror of 2023, we bring you a list of nine more Australian horror movies to watch next.


The Tunnel (2011)

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Entirely crowdfunded and inspired by the found-footage style of The Blair Witch Project, The Tunnel is bare bones and all the better for it. The horror follows a journalist and her camera crew into the subterranean tunnels under St James Station in Sydney. What were once used as air raid shelters in WWII have since been abandoned, and when people go missing, the journalist descends to uncover what she suspects the government to be hiding. It's proximity to home makes it all the more scary – you'll never hop on at St James again.

Talk To Me (2023)

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This A24 film from Danny and Michael Philippou has already been dubbed the best horror of 2023, and for good reason. Talk To Me feels distinctly Australian with a soundtrack featuring ONEFOUR and The Kid LAROI and the presence of RUSSH March cover star, Sophie Wilde, alongside Zoe Terakes and Miranda Otto. A group of teenagers begin toying with a hand that can summon the spirit world when one of them goes too far and unleashes a maleficent force with disastrous consequences.


The Babadook (2014)

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Since becoming a certified gay icon, you'd be forgiven for thinking about The Babadook as anything other than frightening. However, fair warning, there is none of that camp magic here – at least overtly. Jennifer Kent's arthouse horror is more spooky than spunky, starring Essie Davis and ruminating on motherhood and grief, this top-hatted ghoul will have you looking under your bed and searching behind your bathtub curtains. It said: "no peace".


Hotel Coolgardie (2016)

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First things first, Hotel Coolgardie is actually a documentary, however it is a heavy and disquieting watch. Two Finnish backpackers arrive in a Western Australian mining town with instructions to work at the local pub where they'll be housed for three months in order to save some money to continue their travels. But their resolve is pushed to its utmost limits. The two encounter an Australian ugliness: blatant and relentless misogyny and xenophobia, which threatens to upend their time abroad.


Wolf Creek (2005)

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I'm surprised any backpackers come to Australia after the sheer disrespect of this film. Despite what the Rotten Tomatoes score says, Wolf Creek is a classic in the canon of Australian horror. It takes all of our varied fears of the expansive outback and turns them into something tangible and horrifying. Good luck sleeping in a swag again.


Thirst (1979)

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Chantal Contouri stars as the unknowing descendant of bloodlusty Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory, who is abducted by an all-male cult of vampires. If that's your kind of thing.


Hounds of Love (2016)

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Hounds of Love is loosely based on the true story of David and Catherine Birnie. Starring Puberty Blues' Ashleigh Cummings, the film is a brutal and, at times, unwatchable story set in 1987, whereby a couple kidnaps a teenager to play out their own sexual fantasies. Thankfully, most of the violence is committed off camera, and Vicki, the teenager, is savvy enough to orchestrate her own escape.


The Loved Ones (2009)

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A grisly film that some have described as torture porn, in an alternate universe, The Loved Ones is the revenge plot Josie Grossie from Never Been Kissed could've had if only she had the macabre imagination and a stomach to see it through. Starring Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton and Xavier Samuel, it's a test of endurance, although if you're a well-seasoned horror fan, I'm sure you have the stamina.


Lake Mungo (2008)

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A cult horror that deserved more than its limited release and subsequent disappearance from mainstream memory. Lake Mungo takes place in Victoria’s rural city of Ararat and delivers through a cost-effective found-footage format. The story unfolds after the drowning of teenager Alice in a local dam, and we see her family attempt to piece together what really led to her death.


Dead Calm (1989)

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Starring Sam Neill and a baby-faced Nicole Kidman, at its heart Dead Calm is a hitchhiker horror that swaps out the open road for the sea. Grieving the death of their child, Australian naval officer, John Ingram and his wife Rae take their yacht to open water where they encounter a frightened young American named Hughie. When Ingram goes to assess the situation of the American's abandoned boat, Hughie takes control of the yacht along with Rae.

Not done with Australian cinema yet? Beat the cultural cringe with 25 of the best homegrown films.

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