Black Water

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The Best Australian Horror Movies

You might expect a list of Australian horror films to be teeming with the beasties people associate with the continent: poisonous snakes, deadly spiders, mammoth crocs. Yet while this collection of essential Aussie horror flicks does contain several of those Down Under biters – two crocodile movies, one shark movie, and one about a giant wild boar (didn’t see that coming, did ya?!) – it also features works that tap into something just as threatening: the vast land itself, from the mystery of its desert center to the dark possibilities of its cities’ sprawling suburbs. Movies like Wolf Creek and Road Games play with our anxiety about who, and what, we might encounter dare we venture into the endless Outback, while Hounds of Love and The Babadook explore what might lie behind your neighbor’s door.

Recent international breakouts like Jennifer Kent’s Babadook and Natalie Erika James’ atmospheric haunted house chiller Relic traffic in the slow-building dread of today’s “elevated horror,” but Australian genre films have been largely marked by a certain hard brutality over the years. Consider Wolf Creek and its sequel, or the more recent Killing Ground, which tell ripped-from-the-headlines slasher tales of terrorized backpackers and campers, but do so with an almost merciless insistence on graphic, real-feeling violence. And while we’re talking brutal, check out The Loved Ones, a darkly comic tale of obsession that found new ways to drill into the torture porn trend of the 2000s.

To be included in the list, movies had to be made and set in Australia, by a predominantly Australian crew. They also had to have more than 10 reviews – which is why the great maybe-horror Bad Boy Bubby, with only nine Tomatometer-approved reviews, didn’t make the cut; ditto the excellent anthology Dark Place. We then culled the selection down to the 20 highest-rated movies, which included a couple of Rotten-but-fun (Bait) or seminal flicks (Patrick), and even a Jamie Lee Curtis sort-of-slasher. (Yes, Curtis’s Final Girl phase even took her to entirely different hemispheres.) Purists may quibble with the choice to include Phillip Noyce’s Dead Calm, a twisty and taut three-hander with Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, and Billy Zane – it’s not horror in the traditional sense, perhaps, but it will have you squirming. As will Justin Kurzel’s The Snowtown Murders (released as just Snowtown in Australia), a crime drama with grisly horror elements you won’t soon forget. Take shots at us in the comments if you must, but won’t regret watching them.

With all that said, here are the 20 highest-rated Australian horror films, according to the Tomatometer.


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2020’s Best Horror Movies | 200 Best Horror Movies Ever

#20

Patrick (1978)
42%

#20
Adjusted Score: 42.443%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Though he has been in an irreversible coma (a "persistent vegetative state") for several years, Patrick is aware of his... [More]
Directed By: Richard Franklin

#19

Bait (2012)
47%

#19
Adjusted Score: 47.424%
Critics Consensus: Bait isn't entirely lacking in the shark action department, but a silly story and thinly sketched characters may leave audiences bored between bloody attacks.
Synopsis: When a monstrous freak tsunami hits a sleepy beach community, a group of survivors from different walks of life find... [More]
Directed By: Kimble Rendall

#18

Dying Breed (2009)
50%

#18
Adjusted Score: 18.442%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The noble search for a dying breed leads an ambitious zoologist to the discovery of a far more sinister species... [More]
Directed By: Jody Dwyer

#17

Wolf Creek 2 (2014)
50%

#17
Adjusted Score: 51.291%
Critics Consensus: After a strong start, Wolf Creek 2 devolves into an unnecessary -- and disappointingly predictable -- sequel.
Synopsis: The outback once more becomes a place of horror as another unwitting tourist becomes the prey for crazed, serial-killer Mick... [More]
Directed By: Greg McLean

#16

Wolf Creek (2005)
53%

#16
Adjusted Score: 56.463%
Critics Consensus: Though Wolf Creek is effectively horrific, it is still tasteless exploitation.
Synopsis: A dream vacation turns into a nightmare in this taut thriller from Australia. Ben (Nathan Phillips), Lizzie (Cassandra Magrath), and... [More]
Directed By: Greg McLean

#15

Razorback (1984)
58%

#15
Adjusted Score: 58.114%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Before he directed the cult classic Highlander (1986), music video creator Russell Mulcahy adapted this stylish, tongue-in-cheek horror film from... [More]

#14

Killing Ground (2017)
75%

#14
Adjusted Score: 77.169%
Critics Consensus: Killing Ground unnerves and compels in equal measure with a grimly intense story that may be too disturbing for some but delivers a white-knuckle experience for fans of brutally realistic thrillers.
Synopsis: A couple's romantic camping trip becomes a desperate fight for survival in this ultra-raw, unhinged kill ride. In need of... [More]
Directed By: Damien Power

#13

Black Water (2008)
80%

#13
Adjusted Score: 68.17%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Three tourists navigating the treacherous swamps of Northern Australia are forced to fight for their lives after a hungry crocodile... [More]

#12

Little Monsters (2019)
80%

#12
Adjusted Score: 85%
Critics Consensus: Led by typically outstanding work from Lupita Nyong'o, Little Monsters is a horror/rom-com hybrid that proves the zombie genre still has fresh brains to savor.
Synopsis: Little Monsters follows Dave (Alexander England), a washed-up musician who volunteers to chaperone his nephew's kindergarten class field trip after... [More]
Directed By: Abe Forsythe

#11
Adjusted Score: 81.569%
Critics Consensus: Rough around the edges but inspired at its core, Wyrmwood is a giddy variation on the zombie genre that will sate gore hounds' appetite for mayhem.
Synopsis: Zombies invade the Australian Outback in this brain-splattered, Mad Max-meets-the-undead thrill ride. When an apocalyptic event turns everyone around him-including... [More]
Directed By: Kiah Roache-Turner

#10

Dead Calm (1989)
83%

#10
Adjusted Score: 84.63%
Critics Consensus: Nicole Kidman's coiled intensity and muscular direction by Phillip Noyce give this nautical thriller a disquieting sense of dread.
Synopsis: While on a yachting expedition on the open seas, a married couple encounters a wrecked vessel and rescues the sole... [More]
Directed By: Phillip Noyce

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 85.015%
Critics Consensus: It's a bleak and brutal endurance test, but for viewers with the strength and patience to make it to the end, Snowtown will prove an uncommonly powerful viewing experience.
Synopsis: When 16 year-old Jamie is introduced to a charismatic man, a friendship begins. As the relationship grows so does Jamie's... [More]
Directed By: Justin Kurzel

#8

Cargo (2018)
88%

#8
Adjusted Score: 90.475%
Critics Consensus: Cargo takes a refreshingly character-driven approach to the zombie genre that's further distinguished by its Australian setting and Martin Freeman's terrific lead performance.
Synopsis: Stranded in rural Australia in the aftermath of a violent pandemic, an infected father desperately seeks a new home for... [More]
Directed By: Yolanda Ramke, Ben Howling

#7

Hounds of Love (2017)
88%

#7
Adjusted Score: 91.501%
Critics Consensus: Smartly constructed and powerfully acted, Hounds of Love satisfies as a psychological thriller with a few nasty surprises -- and marks writer-director Ben Young as a promising talent.
Synopsis: In suburban Perth during the mid 1980s, people are unaware that women are disappearing at the hands of serial killer... [More]
Directed By: Ben Young

#6

Road Games (1981)
91%

#6
Adjusted Score: 91.02%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this Australian film, Stacy Keach is a truck driver who takes the law in his own hands to capture... [More]
Directed By: Richard Franklin

#5

Relic (2020)
91%

#5
Adjusted Score: 100.714%
Critics Consensus: Relic ratchets up its slowly building tension in an expertly crafted atmosphere of dread, adding up to an outstanding feature debut for director/co-writer Natalie Erika James.
Synopsis: When Edna, the elderly and widowed matriarch of the family, goes missing, her daughter Kay and granddaughter Sam travel to... [More]
Directed By: Natalie Erika James

#4

Rogue (2008)
94%

#4
Adjusted Score: 64.08%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A handful of tourists looking for adventure get more than they bargained for when they cross paths with a massive... [More]
Directed By: Greg McLean

#3

Lake Mungo (2009)
95%

#3
Adjusted Score: 73.585%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Alice Palmer drowns while swimming in the local reservoir. When her body is recovered and a verdict of accidental... [More]
Directed By: Joel Anderson

#2

The Loved Ones (2012)
98%

#2
Adjusted Score: 99.387%
Critics Consensus: Successfully mixing the conventions of the teen and horror genres with a twist, Australian director Sean Byrne makes a striking directorial debut with The Loved Ones.
Synopsis: Lola Stone asked Brent Mitchell to the prom, but Brent said no, and now he's screwed. What happens when Lola... [More]
Directed By: Sean Byrne

#1

The Babadook (2014)
98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 107.531%
Critics Consensus: The Babadook relies on real horror rather than cheap jump scares -- and boasts a heartfelt, genuinely moving story to boot.
Synopsis: Six years after the violent death of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is at a loss. She struggles to discipline... [More]
Directed By: Jennifer Kent

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