When it comes to horror from Australia and New Zealand, there are two main types that make it into the international mainstream: you’ve got your Wolf Creeks, your The Babadooks, your The Loved Ones, the nasty, serious slashers that are drawn to barren expanses of scrub and desert and what they can represent for their characters. And then, you’ve got the other side of that – Housebound, Peter Jackson’s early career, the iconic Black Sheep – you know what I’m talking about. That which is mostly made up of directors clapping their hands together, looking around their hometowns, and wondering exactly how they can have the most fun.
And it’s into that category that Two Heads Creek, directed by Jesse O’Brien, fits: in a pre-screening intro by O’Brien in the FrightFest 2020 screening this year (hey, did any of you digitally attend FrightFest? If so, what did you think of this year’s line up? Did you have as strange a soft spot for Aquaslash as I did?), he described the film as “Australiana” – instead of the soft-focus cool that the Americana reference suggests, and if Two Heads Creek is anything to go by, Australiana is less a celebration of Australian culture as a joyful and loving skewering of it.
Literally, in this case – Two Heads Creek follows the tale of the adopted children of a Polish butcher, whose recent demise has revealed their true heritage as the offspring of a mysterious small-town Australian woman. Chased out of a post-Brexit Britain by some Farage-inspired local tweens, they soon discover that Two Heads Creek, the home of their biological mother, is hiding some pretty bleak secrets about what they do with would-be immigrants.
From there on out, things take a turn for the raucous; the best thing this film has going for it, without a doubt, are the central twins, played by Jordan Waller and Kathryn Wilder; if you’re going to tell a story about family, native life, and incomers, you have to sell the connection between the two of them, and the two clearly have fabulous chemistry that manages to ground the film even in some of its more outrageous sequences. The direction is enormously tight and lean, and the scythe-sharp comedy bites when the two of them are on screen together.
And yes, since you mention it, there is a throughline in this movie about immigration and a country’s natives – for such a chaotic, blood-soaked gorefest, it’s actually pretty well teased-out, simple and unintrusive but giving a little depth to the story beyond the camp cannibalism that dominates the majority of its run. I’m a fan of a small-town story, and I think that Two Heads Creek manages to use that hyper-focus find some actual depth in it beyond just the gleefully gruesome meat-pasting and inherent strangeness of an inbred little community like this own.
There are some growing pains here, for sure – the action struggles with what is just an obvious lack of experience, and it can dip over into indulgent on occasion – but for the most part, Two Heads Creek is the kind of Saturday night horror romp that hits the spot. Just don’t order sausages on your takeout pizza the evening you watch it, okay?
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By Louise MacGregor
(header image via ABC)