It’s not that I don’t like Australia; it’s just that I don’t care about Australia. To my generation of Brits Australia is the definition of the grass being greener on the other side, the idea of emigration to the antipodeans boundaries of the Commonwealth a pipe dream for the young and disenfranchised. But whilst the grass may be greener in Australia, it’s also teeming with poisonous spiders, snakes and blue ringed octopi. Maybe not so much the last one, but you get the idea.


My abiding notion of Australia isn’t some sunny Utopia where everyone is laid back and genially good looking, my abiding notion of Australia is the phrase ‘can kill you in XX seconds’. As a Brit I’m used to being in a country where the worst the natural world can throw at me is an agitated badger or a particularly irksome rainstorm. As such the idea of a country where the flora and fauna are conspiring to murder you every few seconds is completely alien to me. Like I said it’s not that I hate Australia, although the stereotypical bubbly Aussie is perhaps the most loathable of all cultural stereotypes, it’s just that I don’t often think about it. Aside from the occasional recollection of something awesome that happened in THE ROAD WARRIOR, or a hastily refused Fosters, or my occasional obsessions with NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS I just don’t think about Australia.


However this past year four things really made me change my opinion on the country I’d previously allocated to the ‘OH GOD, SPIDERS’ part of my mental filing system, and I’ll share them with you now.


The Loved Ones


This delightful horror film was released back in the 2009 in its native Australia, but it was only in 2010 that it was unceremoniously dumped onto DVD in the United Kingdom. Thankfully I was able to catch a rare cinematic showing of what might be one of my favourite new horror movies.


Australian Horror is something which has always fascinated me, because if you live in a country where POISONOUS SPIDERS CAN LIVE IN YOUR SHOES then how is a movie ever going to be scarier than real life? As such Australian Horror tends to follow US patterns and as such the last few years of Aussie horror have been defined by a weird mix of Torture Porn and Hillbilly chic. Certainly films like WOLF CREEK and STORM WARNING feel like they slot in with the Torture Porn genre, although there is always a unique charm to these films which stops them feeling as sterile and cold as their American counterparts. There is a certain, indefinable, charm to Australian movies partially predicated on a sense of humour unique to Australians.


This sense of humour allowed Australian Horror in particular to carve out an interesting little niche and THE LOVED ONES is a perfect example of how that laid back charm can make a good film absolutely fantastic. Playing like MISERY for the TWILIGHT set THE LOVED ONES takes place over Prom Night as Brent, a disgruntled teenager, is abducted and forced to take part in an increasingly brutal private Prom throne by Brent’s freaky fellow student Lola and her golem-like father. Whilst the premise sounds a little blah what makes the film work is the style of the movie and the cast themselves. Lola is the star of the film, a bug eyed wonder who stalks through every scene she is in with an amazing charisma. She’s an amazingly terrifying character and she is brought vividly to life by Robin McLeavy. Lola is a character who is no way multifaceted, but there is an intensity and sweep to her psychosis which is amazing. Little glances, sudden moves, flutters of the eyes, even vocal intonation just communicate a volatile lethality.


What makes the performance truly great however is her interplay with John Brumpton as her father. Brumpton plays ‘daddy’ as both put upon and enraptured. At first it’s possible to imagine ‘daddy’ as being just as threatened by Lola as the captive, but then you realise that his walking on egg-shells routine is just a play on the usual ‘sweet sixteen’ paradigm but dialled up to eleven. Daddy is the muscle of the operation and his uniquely pragmatic way of achieving his goals is the source of some of the blackest humour in the film.


Brent’s ordeal is made all the worse because Lola and Daddy are kind of crappy at what they do, they mess up a lot and it’s only due to how much ‘practice’ they’ve had that they’re able to keep on top of Brent. However this innate shittiness also lends a brutality to the violence, the fact they’re not efficient and are kind of ‘making do’ makes a lot of scenes all the worse. In particular a sequence involving a pair of paring knives and a hammer is excruciating due to how long it takes.


Xavier Samuel as the endlessly put upon Brent doesn’t have as much to work with as Leavy or Brumpton, but he grants Brent a steely determination which makes him feel almost noble. Brent is a walking heap of angst, haunted by his past, but despite how unlikeable he should be the character comes across as utterly relatable. He’s the calm centre of the storm happening around him and he counterpoints the broader styles of Leavy and Brumpton.


Shot with great style, realised with brutal intensity and peopled with some truly memorable characters THE LOVED ONES is a perfect example of a film that borrows from other sources but is made special by a uniquely Australian feel.



I’m a little late to the party on this one, debuting in Australia back in 2008 and over here in 2009 I only got onto the UNDERBELLY love train earlier this year. Detailing the brutal gang-war that plagued Melbourne between 1995 and 2004 UNDERBELLY is a show that is ferocious and absolutely fascinating. Playing like a bastard child of the THE SHIELD and THE WIRE the show is almost Cinéma vérité handheld cameras and on location shooting giving a sense of verisimilitude to the proceedings. With a thumping and the kind of ultra-violence more common to Takashi Miike it is hard to mistake UNDERBELLY for a documentary, but it feels real and feels lived in.


The scope of the show is amazing, with the series buoyed around four ‘main’ characters and nearly thirty recurring characters, but despite this it never feels confused or convoluted. In fact UNDERBELLY practically bristles with energy the before mentioned ultra-violence giving the scenes of urban carnage an almost car crash like quality. As someone who isn’t particularly squeamish I found myself becoming increasingly disturbed by the numerous ways that face flesh was assaulted by shotguns, baseball bats and other non-face friendly implements.


But if you can stomach the violence and handle the pace UNDERBELLY is a bracing, fascinating, grotesquely funny look into…well….the Underbelly of Australia.


Australian Hip-Hop

Fellow chewer Rain Dog hosts a radio show every Saturday on Melbourne’s Progressive Broadcasting Station. The show is fantastic and you can listen in on Saturdays here,


It is a fantastic show and Rain Dog is a truly fantastic host and it really opened my eyes to a whole heap of music I would never have heard before. Before Rain Dog Australian music was NICK CAVE and MEN AT WORK, after Rain Dog I had so many Australian hip-hop groups buzzing around in my head that I was almost ready to give up on European and American hip-hop.


With the same self-effacing style that makes their movies so appealing Australians have taken to hip-hop with honesty and charm and some fantastic beats. To my, VERY UNTRAINED, ears Australian hip-hop represents a middle ground between the trip-hop stuff exemplified by Ninja Tunes and DJ Shadow and the faster, more lyrically bracing, wordplay of old gangster rap. With genuine stories to tell and music to light up your soul Australian Hip-Hop feels like it’s on the verge of becoming big.


LA Noire

Go here:


Now that you’ve seen the trailer you’ll know why I’m geeking out.


Developed by the Australian ‘Team Bondi’ LA Noire essentially looks like LA Confidential the videogame. I don’t mean this as a slight, at all, because I’m talking about a tone and style more than anything else. The writing, the facial animation, the graphics all create a really fantastic feel and even this trailer seems to showcase a world I can’t wait to explore and  a great new (ish) emerging talent in Australia.