Deranged Down Under: ‘To Hell and Outback’

06th Jun 2023


Unlike blaxploitation, a genre that had its heyday in the ’70s, Ozploitation continues to thrive. There are horror movies, like the mother-protector fable “The Babadook”; the newly released killer-hillbilly thriller “Killing Ground”; and action films like the Oscar-winning “Mad Max: Fury Road,” with its throbbing emphasis on survival and tricked-out vehicles. Here are other Ozploitation films to check out; three can still be seen at the IFC Center.

“Patrick’ Video by TrashTrailers

‘Patrick’ (1978)

Set at a Melbourne hospital, this creepy spine-tingler is about a handsome young man who uses his psychic powers to throw people into the air and otherwise interfere in the life of a nurse he’s fallen in love with. As “Carrie” did two years before, “Patrick” tapped into the cinematic fascination with diabolical telekinesis that surfaced in the late ’70s. Mr. Tarantino said the movie inspired part of his “Kill Bill, Vol. 1.” (Streaming on Fandor and available on DVD and Blu-ray)

‘Road Games’ Video by Umbrella Entertainment

‘Road Games’ (1981)

This down-and-dirty psychological white knuckler is about a poetry-loving truck driver (Stacy Keach) who picks up a hitchhiker (a post-”Halloween” Jamie Lee Curtis) as he hunts down the killer of young women along deserted stretches of the Australian nowhere. Initial reaction was mixed. One fan praised it as “‘Rear Window’ on a highway.” But The New York Times, questioning the film’s American cast, wrote: “The Outback might as well be the New Jersey Turnpike.” (Friday and Saturday at IFC and available on DVD and Blu-ray)

‘Razorback’ Video by plainsvideo

‘Razorback’ (1984)

Tapping into the exploitation genre’s love of animals gone wrong, this intense chiller tracks the path of a giant wild boar — “as big as a rhino,” as it’s described in the film — that goes on a killing rampage in the outback. The film is often compared to “Jaws” in how it sparingly yet viciously shows the animal in attack. When it was released theatrically in New York, it was on a double bill with perhaps Australia’s most famous cinematic export: “Mad Max.” (Sept. 22-23 at IFC)

‘Dead End Drive-In’ Video by Lakeshore Entertainment

‘Dead End Drive-In’ (1986)

Set in a futuristic 1995, this psycho-shocker is about a drive-in cinema where punks and other young misfits are held captive and fed a diet of drugs, music and cheeseburgers as the world outside crumbles. A mix of ’80s rebellion film and dystopian political parable — “‘The Road Warrior’ crossed with ‘The Exterminating Angel’” as The Los Angeles Times put it — the movie also touches on Australia’s history of racial tensions. (Available on Amazon via Shudder)

‘Wolf Creek’ Video by VVolfCreek

‘Wolf Creek’ (2005)

Evil that lurks in Australia’s rocky and rough landscape continues to feed the modern Ozploitation film. Set in the outback, this grisly pageant of suffering tells an ultraviolent story of backpackers who become the victim of a torture-loving loner. The director, Greg McLean, said he took cues from the life of Ivan Milat, an Australian serial killer in the 1990s. The film spawned both a sequel and a TV series. (Aug. 18-19 at IFC)

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