It has been well publicised over the last few years that Australian audiences don’t show up to horror films, and recently the Australian horror film Patrick opened to only six cinemas in Australia. In an interview with IF Magazine the film’s producer, Antony Ginnane, admitted he had “no expectations theatrically” in Australia. The producer of a locally made horror film is aware that the release will fail in his own backyard. I’m not getting into the politics of the film business in Australia and I am aware there is an audience for horror films in Australia; they are vocal, and wonderful for their fandom. In my opinion the cause of our mass ignorance is on a subliminal level, a Dundee level.
When getting mugged in New York City at knife-point in the first Crocodile Dundee film, Mr Dundee pulls out a bigger knife and proclaims ‘you call that a knife? THIS is a knife’. When a new trailer for a horror film does the rounds in Australia, collectively in our social conscious we’re saying ‘you call that a knife?’
Growing up in Australia, no matter where you live, you are constantly reminded that the environment in this country is designed to kill you. Australia is home to some of the most poisonous snakes, spiders and sea creatures on the planet. Even the platypus, a cute little mammal, has a venomous barb it uses to jab predators with when it’s in danger. Have you seen a platypus? They are adorable...yet dangerous. As a kid my parents drilled into me the importance of respecting the flora and fauna of Australia because if I failed to acknowledge the fact, BOOM, R.I.P Cam. And I grew up in the suburbia, far from any giant crocodiles or toxic jellyfish. I feel this is a common part of the experience of living in this country and there are different extremes of danger we face in different states and territories from suburban spider encounters, snakes in the outback and sharks circling any beach on a hot summer day. Yes, most countries have a list of natural foes that can easily end your life but Australians have learned to live amongst the worst of the worst. It’s like being trapped in Mother Nature’s maximum security prison.
It’s worth remembering there is a distinct difference between danger and fear. In Australia we comfortably live alongside danger, yet the element of fear is relatively low. We have been conditioned to accept that death is everywhere, thus our fear is properly regulated. The most common word used to describe Australian culture is ‘laid-back’, which is an accurate observation in this context. As a collective conscious, the primal fears that horror movies attempt to tap into just does not compute as well as they do in other countries like America where there is a culture of fear to cash-in on and horror is king. Due to the relaxed nature of most Australians, the things most likely to freak people out would be a short supply of alcohol, the possibility of a long weekend being struck from the calendar or summer being cancelled.
Australians aren’t completely immune to horror and films like Wolf Creek and the Paranormal Activity franchise have managed to find audiences, but as a whole, I think we’re always looking for the bigger knife, something that will really frighten us.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies