THE MARSHES is a fresh slasher headed straight for Shudder, and it’s set in Australia, the beautiful nation that’s currently on fire. As an Australian citizen myself, it’s nice to take in some fictional horror that’s come out of my country as opposed to the non-fiction atrocities that are currently being visited upon our nation’s forests and wildlife.
THE MARSHES centres around a group of microbiologists heading deep into the Australian wilderness to do a whole bunch of science stuff. It starts in a way familiar to anyone who’s seen Wolf Creek, with our protagonists perturbing outback locals with their high-falutin’ city slicker presence. Tensions quickly rise and before they know it, our intrepid microbiologists are being hunted like wild pigs in the Australian wilderness. The real threat, however, is worse than they first think.
Holding a degree in microbiology obviously doesn’t guarantee a character’s survival instincts, as all the rules are broken well before the half-hour mark. The characters barely come to terms with the threat to their lives before getting jiggy wit it, exposing their bits to the kangaroos, koalas and the killer hiding in the bush.
The killer himself is somewhat of a Freddy Krueger of the swamp. He seemingly appears in dreams as well as reality. He comes complete with all the Australian trimmings; brandishing sheep clippers, an akubra hat and even billy tea strapped to his no doubt Australian-made belt. He’s as much a spirit of the Australian land as Wolf Creek‘s Mick Taylor – and that’s a comparison I feel is fair. He preys upon the protagonists who hope to understand Australia from a scientific perspective. Is the killer the ancient land’s bestial resistance against their modern methods? I’m not sure. He could just be a killer redneck and I could be reading too deep.
Like any good (or bad) Aussie film, THE MARSHES makes great use of its location. It’s packed with beautiful shots of the Aussie landscape, and differentiates itself from other outback-set films by taking place in, well… the marshes. You can feel the heat and the flies buzzing past your face. It’s a great setting for a film like this.
The carnage, however, could have been a little more extensive. I would have liked to see the film reach a little more to bring something new to the backwoods horror table. Let’s face it, it’s hard to stand out in an overcrowded genre, and the sub-subgenre that is Australian backwoods horror is overcrowded in itself. THE MARSHES does its best but will struggle to win over jaded audiences. The ending also leaves things up in the air in a way that might give some audience members a bit of agita.
Whenever I review an Australian horror film, I always feel the need to take on an apologetic tone on behalf of my country. Between the bushfires, venomous creatures and murderous yokels that populate our horror cinema, I can see why foreigners might not want to visit our shores. However, I promise you, these things aren’t representative of the Australian experience and we need you to visit us now more than ever, especially in light of the recent ecological disasters. We’re really not that bad when you get to know us. THE MARSHES is now available to stream on Shudder. For more on the bushfires in Australia, and ways you can help, click here.