"I was thinking before, do you remember that time when I saved you"- Tristan
Nick is heading to the Outback to visit his recently deceased Grandfather's farm at the request of his younger brother Tristan. Seems Grandad left his estate to Tristan to pass onto the local Aboriginal tribe, but it is up to Tristan to make that decision and the boy has been made a lucrative offer by a Developer. Nick is meant to help Tristan come to a decision, but seems more interested in his Grandfather's research into Cryptozoology, which revolves around an Australian myth. Perhaps complicating matters is the arrival of Nick's drug dealer mate BJ and his van fill of party fiends and potential victims. Well it certainly complicates things for Nick, as BJ has brought along Anya, Nick's former love interest.
We are soon in party mode, well Nick isn't and is seen as dead wood, and we discover Tristan has been dealing drugs and otherwise being a bit of a tear away. Anyways turns out the Developer is naturally not what he seems, BJ's possie of gals is just the right number to evoke an ancient evil, and the local Koori tribal leader has important information about an evil that is about to emerge from the local Billabong. And just what are those strange noises at night emanating from the Bush?
You know every now and again local film makers dial into Aboriginal mythology to build a horror flick, and that my friends is a rich vein to be digging into. Luke Sparke hits the Dreamtime for some rich gravy, mixes in modern horror tropes - this movie steadfastly refuses to rise above "B" grade monster tropes, and unfortunately then tries to add some subplots and interpersonal dramas. On the bright side the movie we get never fails to rock along and doesn't spend a whole lot of time wallowing in drama. You basically get what you want, monster movie galloping full tilt throughout the full runtime.
Okay so there are a few wee problems with the movie, but then again what movie is perfect and at the very least we aren't dealing with a Hollywood cookie cutter. The relationships between the various characters and their dramas and conflicts weren't really that interesting and pretty much convoluted the plot of what should be a simple monster flick. Okay I got the whole Nick and Tristan dynamic, Nick having exited stage left when Tristan needed his big Bro, but was less on board the whole Nick and Anya thing which pretty much was surplus to the plot requirements. Let's not even get into the dialogue which at times borders on the face palming, but when did you last watch a horror flick, besides those heavy psychological ones, where the dialogue was a real strength. But perhaps the worse mistake Billabong makes in terms of cinematic sins is the creature CGI in the final act. To say they should have kept the monster in the shadows is to understate things, to be honest the monster looks like a giant mutated cane toad, shout out to my Queensland Homies there.
Having covered the weaker aspects of the movie let's move on to what makes Red Billabong a movie you may want to catch. Firstly as stated previously the pacing is just what you want from your monster flick. This one just doesn't let up and is romping along like a puppy to its food bowl, about the only time it takes pause is to drop some exposť on us, the chef amongst this is a Koori who explains the mythology and just what our team are facing out in the Bush. So you are never going to be bored during the movie runtime and for sure are going to get your popcorn's worth.
I know this shouldn't be a strength but was actually digging the characters and their various backgrounds. BJ is the comic relief, the girls are hot and have strong personalities, Tristan is the little brother with issues, and Nick is the serious big brother. Even the minor characters are developed, though there is a feeling a lot of them simply fit the plot requirements and are there to up the body count. Got to say I was nodding my head like an idiot in appreciation of this aspect of Red Billabong, so no one is going win a Downunder Oscar for their role - hey it's a horror flick no love from the establishment, but I can see a number of peeps with futures in Hollywood dark genre flicks.
Naturally, this being an Aussie horror flick set in "the bush", the locations were excellent. Loved the actual farmhouse, which I guess you would call a Queenslander - wide verandas, raised, etc. to help reduce the heat. And the Billabong, which at stages resembled more of a river than a waterhole, was kind of awesome. I was left wondering however if the creature's lair was the same sound stage set that Greg MacLean used in Rogue. So if you want to get your Downunder scenery fix then this might be the movie to get your Oz on with.
In terms of your horror fix, you might want to hunt out something else, unless of course monster movies are your wild thing. There was a deal of interest when the creature was simply weird noises at night and crashing sounds in the bush, but this quickly dissipated when the beastie was revealed, way too early in the movie for mine. Still seen worse monsters on the screen so don't let it get you down, but definitely not the stuff of nightmares. Other than that there were thankfully no inane jump scares, but got to say there was not much in terms of tension or a chilled atmosphere. Guess I wasn't invested enough in the characters to really have concerns over their futures. Don't go into Red Billabong expecting to scream your lungs out, it simply isn't going to happen, but there's enough going down to spike your horradar at least.
Needless to say T&A is on the low scale, Ozploitation is long over folks, put aside your box of tissues or check your favourite porn site if required, but we do get Jessica Green sporting one heck of a good bikini. The gals get, uhmm, guess the monster is nude throughout.
Guess I've covered this monster flick enough, and no not going to give away what creature from Aboriginal mythology we're dealing with, though have to say it wasn't a Yowie, which was my original guess. And if you think that was a weird choice Dan had it as the bastard off spring of Gina and Clive, which sent a shiver down my spine. So the movie isn't going to make anyone's top of the year list, or likely to be in anyone's must watch Aussie Horror flick revelation but I'm definitely dropping a recommendation on this bad boy, if you like a good monster flick then you could do a lot worse, and hey you already did with Sharknado right? Definitely worth a watch, hell I brought the DVD at full price and have it on my repeat viewing cycle. Dive into the chilled water of this Billabong, it is going to entertain you at the very least.