Wake in Fright Film Review Essay Example

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1Wake In Fright Film Review

Wake in Fright Film Review

Wake in the Fright is a film made in Australia in 1971, but several decades later it still has chills. When I first watched this film, I really had no idea what to make of it, it was unique from many films I had seen. I could courageously justify it as disturbing, through its dominating video of ruthless gambling, heartless violence and obscure sexuality amongst other things. It portrays itself as “horror film” and it actually contains a great deal of horror, but of all of the horror is human and inhumanely realistic (McAlley, 1990). However I now find it really exciting and fundamental for any person interested in the roots of male violence.

Critics have time and again argued that it is very ironical that despite it being one of Australia’s top rated films, it was directed by a Canadian Ted Kothcheff. Additionally, Kothcheff”s view of Australia is that of rugged, harsh and unforgiving place where men turn into animals and life seems to have no meaning. It is said to be based on the novel of Kenneth Cook, and its first screening was in 1971, however it remained unseen for decades as the master negative was reported to be missing. Australians initial response to the film was not very encouraging and made the movie flop as the audience found it ghastly (Kotcheff et al., 2016). The film was finally released on DVD in 2009, after the last print was found in a condemned warehouse in Pittsburgh. It was proclaimed masterpiece. American Rex Reed hailed the film restoration as ” The greatest news of the year.” And maybe “The greatest film Australia ever made.”

I believe this film describes Australia like no other even though its critics argue that it depicts Australia as a brutal, violence-prone region with no love for humanity and its cruelty to animals. In fact it is said that during one of the early screenings, a member ofthe audience stoodup and yelled” That’s not us!” It exposes a disgusting and disparaging image of Australian culture. However as things unfolded, we came to learn that the film’s main location, is a place known as “Bundunyaba” which the locals prefer calling “The Yabba”. Yabba is a place full of gamblers, grog and dirt, depicting the kind of life the residents were living (Kotcheff et al., 2016). The description of Yabba reminds me of the life at the slums that I once visited Yugovyra. Life was more of the description conferred upon Yabba, the leaking sewerage that passed through the estate, the improper drainage during the rainy seasons, lack of proper waste disposal plans and poor sanitary conditions at large.

The story majorly revolves around a young teacher, John Grant, in the middle of desolate wilderness. From the opening scenes, we are able to see an ambitious teacher who seems troubled and ruffled as it can be seen that the children’s time to go home is up (Kaufman, 2013). This moment reminds me of my former days on how I eagerly awaited for my teacher to release us. However John seems to be discontented with life at the remote village that is planning to visit Sydney over the holidays and never to return.

When John is departing we are shown a really dilapidated building besides a railroad network and the camera spans displaying vast emptiness with the second building standing meters away. This is used to show the remoteness of the town of Taboonda, this view gives me a feeling of the life rural Australia, an area composed of remarkably low human population density, a place largely inhabited by indigenous Australians (Peters-Little et al., 2010). The landscape though with no distinct features provides a good setting for the film giving the much needed justification for John Grant to leave the remote town. I can relate the thought and the actual of leaving the town by John Grant as a common occurrence in most of the professions of the day. Professionals abandoning their jobs for both uncertain and certain futures are a common phenomenon in my locality. Among the professional is my father who abandoned his job as a driver of ABNCco. due to failure to get risk allowances despite the risky terrains traversed in the service. This is the case due to poor living and working conditions or in pursuit of greener pastures. This also depicts Australia as a country whose professionals such as teachers are unstable in their working environments and as such subjects to migration any time. John Grant is in dire need to move without any mention of a better future but rather moving out to escape the poor environment he is doing his job.

John the teacher resolves to depart the small town of Taboonda, to be with his girlfriend over the holiday period, expecting a stopover in Bundunyaba. In order to catch a Sydney-bound flight a fellow passenger offers John a drink while aboard the train, he rejects the offer, and instead he fantasizes himself at the beach with his girlfriend laying a bottle of beer against her bare stomach (Risker, 2014). This reminds me of a story I read from a book by Whitmire J. Merky on the Social psychoanalysis. In this, the author refers to Australian societies as that which values societal coexistence. Merky further explains the in a rather hilarious way that alcoholics love each other and usually tend to act as the first hand brother’s keeper. John seems to be really in love with his girlfriend as a lazy smile spreads across his mouth when he begins to look at photos of his girlfriend. The happiness expressed by the other passengers as they began to make merry portrays a show of unity as expressed by the people residing in rural Australia. John chose to peruse through the photos of his girlfriend (Risker, 2014).

Welcome to “Yabba,” a mining town in the Australian Outback. John Grant’s new friend whom he came across at the local Outback bar tells him. “Where nobody cares where you have come from or what you have done”. There is a world of blokes fanatically offering each other drinks, gambling on petty-toes games and standing, stock-still in the pub at the end of the evening to salute the war dead. John seems to be introverted and I think he has a disdain for the locals of ’outback ‘he behaves disgruntled because of the conditions ,he believes forced him to be there, to be teacher in tiny school in a remote township in exchange to receive tertiary education sponsored by the government. He dislikes his job as a teacher and refers to himself as a “bounded slave in the education department” and confides that to his newfound friend policeman Jock Crawford who offers Grant a glass of beer and encourages him to drink more (Kotcheff et al., 2016). He seemed to have gotten well with the locals who he had despised.

What was planned to be a one day stay ended up being a very long stay, as John was rebuffed and fascinated by the strange and treacherous wilderness around him. I see that the generosity of inhabitants of Yabba could only be felt through giving out alcohol. The movie here depicts the vision of a nation without a purpose, where boredom breeds “obscenity” and people do anything because they can. They drink aimlessly, fight aimlessly, and kill animals aimlessly. “Discontent is a luxury for the well to do.” proclaims John’s newfound friend who is an alcoholic doctor (Kotcheff et al., 2016). This society is represented as outback considering the actions the locals are engaging in. These range from reckless drinking, brutal nature of killing the kangaroos whereby the kangaroos were first incapacitated before being butchered by John’s gangs.

Being subdued by the locals in their horrific lives and is now, John, initially a moral upright man, a conscientious man, intelligent and handsome reminds me of life back in high school age. Then, majority of the innocent students were lured into behaviors that were considered unruly and outlawed by the schools and the society at large. Children could engage in drug abuse, sexual immorality, and some could easily resolve to square out their differences over slight misunderstanding through violence and fights. Such children could transform into people who do not abide by the rules and regulations and could easily find themselves at loggerheads with the administrations and their parents or guardians. If not tamed, such characters could create a supply of crooked members of the society who sooner or later would become a threat to the society through theft, assassinations, rape among other social ills in a society.

As the movie progresses, there is an actual scene with Kangaroo hunting. This is however done without consideration and remorsefulness towards these animals. The kangaroo hunt scene shows Grant and his drinking buddies drive into the outback, with booze and bullets ready to kill some kangaroos just for fun (Kotcheff et al., 2016). I regard these as the lowest moment in the movie; multiple kangaroos are actually killed during the hunting mission. This move cements the belief that humans are cruel and pitiless monsters. Making me wonder how on earth they filmed this scene. What was in the mind of director Ted Kothcheff? However the director absolved himself of any wrongdoings. Implying that no kangaroo or was injured primarily for the film but they were actually tagged along with professional hunters who shot kangaroo mainly for their meat. This part with inhumane nature against the Kangaroos is a depiction of Australia as a country that has no reserve for its wildlife. Killing of Kangaroos for fun is an act of recklessness that is mostly done in a country with lawlessness and disorder. I can easily relate this act to an idle society that is vulnerable to whatever kind of activity that calls in. Idle brutality targeting the kangaroos is an act that reminds me of an act from stories had heard from communities that hunt wild animals for food, tusks among other essential valuable stuff. It is perhaps the raw footage that depicts the flash of life through eyes of the already unconscious kangaroos as they collapse to the ground that is considered the most horrific scene that most audience prefers not to watch. This I could easily relate to the most disturbing images the society copes up with at the darkest hours of lives when they have to bid bye to their loved ones at the very last hours of their lives.

This is indeed a society of transformation. From an introverted spirit that could hardly take in new friends, a spirit that had never thought of merrymaking or partying with friends, John is now an extrovert that could engage in any kind of activity and could now be tolerant to new ideas to friends. John could now sit and discuss with others an act he never did before thanks to gambling options, ladies at the males-pub with no restrictions on the drinking hours (McAlley, 1990). This reminds me of my uncle, Timothy, who most spent most of his time listening to Mahler and despised everyone, he could t times read Tolstoy an introvert indeed. After an encounter with some few friends he met when he visited Moscow, he surprisingly became the most outgoing person have ever met. He could begin any kind of stories in his talks with friends as he referred to Cavafy.

Wake in the Fright has partly complied with the Australian National Cinema though not in its entirety. Provisions of the Australian National Cinema consider the nationality of the main actors including the directors and the producers. The main producer who outlined the life in the Australia’s hinterlands, Ted Kotcheff, was a Canadian. The directors, Peter Weir, Bruce Beresford and Gillian Armstrong were Australians (Peters-Little et al., 2010). The movie also revolves around a schoolteacher, John Grant, who is an Australian including his friends that he later encounter at the pub. This, in my view, proves that the movie complied with the Australian National Cinema provisions. The setting is entirely within Australia, a consideration that could easily spell out the cultural practices of the Australians as per the consideration by the Australian National Cinema. The movie has succeeded in depicting Australia’s true psyche, the brutality towards the animals by drunken fellas, sexual immorality as portrayed by women at the men’s pub.


Kaufman, T. (2013). Wake in fright. Strawberry Hills, N.S.W: Currency Press.

Kotcheff, T., Cook, K., Jones, E., Scott, J., Pleasence, D., Bond, G., & Rafferty, C. (2016). Wake in fright. Paris: La Rabbia [éd.

McAlley, H. (1990). Helen McAlley’s commentary on «Wake in fright» by Kenneth Cook. Greensborough, Vic: Helen McAlley.

Peters-Little, F., Curthoys, A., & Docker, J. (2010). Passionate histories: Myth, memory and Indigenous Australia. Acton, A.C.T: ANU E Press.

Risker, P. (2014). Terror of the Times: In conversation with Ted Kotcheff on Wake in Fright. Film International, 12(3), 123-128. doi:10.1386/fiin.12.3.123_7