25 Great Australian Cult Films That Are Worth Your Time
18. Hostage (1983) Directed by Frank Shields
A criminally underrated take on the ‘woman in peril’ story, “Hostage” is based on the true story of Christine Maresch. A young Australian girl, she falls in love with an immigrant circus worker who, over time, reveals himself to be an active member of the Nazi Party. As a result, Christine experiences pure physical, mental and psychological terror at the hands of her lover.
Trying to have its cake and eat it too, this features plenty of nudity from the lead actress, Kerry Mack. However, the power and disturbing nature of the story stop it from becoming exploitative. In other words, its heart and mind are in the right place.
An Australian answer to “I Spit On Your Grave”, this is confronting but highly accomplished cinema.
17. Pure S(1975) Directed by Bert Deling
Made on an absolute shoestring and employing a cast of largely non-professional actors, this is a film that truly transcended its meagre roots. An utterly in your face and unapologetic look at heroin addicts trying to score drugs by any means necessary, it remains a pungent, visceral work.
It also is the rarest of birds in that, for a film about drugs, it neither glamourizes nor preaches. It merely shows the actions of a particular subculture and the consequences of said actions. Many people didn’t get this when the film was originally released, with some hysterical over-reactions from both critics and others, with one film critic describing it as “the most evil film he had ever seen”! Up for a challenge? This is the one for you.
16. The Man From Hong Kong (1975) Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
A pulsating and exciting take on the action film, expertly directed by Trenchard-Smith (a name you’ll be hearing more of in this article), this follows a policeman from Hong Kong sent to Australia to extradite a drug dealer. This leads to him crossing paths with local crime lord Jack Wilton (nice casting of former James Bond George Lazenby in the role).
This has something for everyone. It has quite easily hold its own against any of its American cousins. With energy to burn, “The Man From Hong Kong” is an absolute must for lovers of action and mayhem.
15. Long Weekend (1978) Directed by Colin Eggleston
A bickering couple, in the stages of marriage breakdown, decide to take a camping trip. There are abuses of nature on their parts. Mother Nature proves to be a vengeful bitch!
“Long Weekend” is a gorgeous slow burn of a film. Brilliantly shot and edited, it is one of those works that totally gets under your skin. Shot on a low budget, this isn’t about effects of big ‘shock’ moments. The building crescendo of marriage deterioration contrasted against the escalating fury of the physical world is a striking on in this film.
Hard to classify, this is one that is absolutely worth your time.
14. Razorback (1984) Directed by Russell Mulchay
“Razorback” marks the debut feature film from music video director Mulchaey. This centers on a mutant killer pig in the outback.
This is a classic ‘man vs animal’ tale in the tradition of “Jaws”. It features fantastic and assured direction from Mulchay, who would take his formidable skills to Hollywood a few years later with the gleefully bonkers and immensely entertaining “Highlander” (1986). It also features striking cinematography from future Oscar winner Dean Semler.
Kind of lost over the years, “Razorback” is well worth hunting down (pun intended that time!).
13. Dead End Drive-In (1988) Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Again, another film set in a dystopian near future where chaos reigns, at its heart, “Dead End Drive-In” has a really nifty idea. Namely, that the drive-ins across the country are turned into prison camps for the ‘undesirables’ amongst society.
This takes on a highly powerful spin later in the film where refugees from Asian nations are interned in the drive-ins as well as local Australians. The develops into a highly charged look at racism in Australia. Fast forward twenty-five years and look at the current government of Australia.
Better not let them see this or “Turkey Shoot”. They might get ideas!!!
12. Stone (1974) Directed by Sandy Harbutt
Bikies of a particular gang are getting killed off left, right and centre. An undercover cop infiltrates the gang to find out who is behind the wholesale slaughter that’s going on.
“Stone” is truly one out of the box. Directed by first timer Sandy Harbutt (who also co-stars), it has a defiant, anti-establishment energy to it that you can almost feel in your bones as you watch the film and see the main character seduced by the outlaw bikie life that he is supposed to be against in his role as a policeman.
Unfortunately, Harbutt never directed another film. This is one of those outstanding ‘one shot’ deals. A film with muscle and heart, “Stone” deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. One of the finest that Seventies Australian cinema has to offer.
11. The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) Directed by Peter Weir
A compelling piece on the avarice and greed of the human animal, “The Cars That Ate Paris” marked the auspicious directing debut of Peter Weir. Set in a small town in Australia called Paris, it examines the way the townsfolk deliberately cause car crashes to salvage for their own financial gains and means.
By turns menacing, macabre and just plain quirky, this is one that will really stick with you. Even the poster for the film gets under your skin, with this iconic shot of a VW Beetle with spikes sticking out of the exterior like a porcupine. Check this one out!
10. Turkey Shoot (1982) Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Similar in style to the classic film “The Most Dangerous Game”, this is one of those action/science fiction films that totally goes for broke in regards to violence and mayhem.
Set in a dystopian future, where those considered ‘deviants’ by the government are rounded up and interned in prison camps, only to be subsequently subjected to a deadly game of survival, where they are hunted down by the rich and privileged, this is a film with attitude, a brain and a bone to pick.
Starring a cast from across the world, including American imports Steve Raislback and Olivia Hussey, this film seriously pissed off people when it was first released, due to how in your face and angry it was. It also proved quite popular in England, maybe due to the main bad guy being named Thatcher, after the then highly unpopular Prime Minister of that country.
With a low budget, low slung charm to it, they certainly don’t make movies like “Turkey Shoot” anymore, and more is the pity for it.