Wake In Fright
Adapted for the screen in 1971 by Canadian director, Ted Kotcheff (who would go on to helm movies as varied as First Blood and Weekend At Bernie's) from Kenneth Cook's novel of the same name, Wake In Fright (or Outback, as it was originally released) is a dizzying fever dream into the heart of darkness for John Grant (Gary Bond), a disgruntled school teacher stranded in the Australian Outback.
Freshly off for the Christmas holidays from his forced post in the desolate, miniscule township of Tiboonda, the bonded educator immediately hits the bar of the hotel he's been staying at before hopping a train bound for Sydney. So, it's obvious the man can drink but he's a far cry from possessing the yeast gills required for the situation he finds himself sucked into when an overnight stop in the peculiar mining town of Bundanyabba turns into a debasing dance with feral id impulses.
Initially, Grant is scornful of the simple-minded pleasures of the aggressively hospitable townsfolk – drinking, more drinking, a few drinks to wash down the drinks, then a spot of gambling, followed by drinks to celebrate or commiserate the outcome. But, galvanized after winning a significant amount of cash in a mindless game of chance, he bets his entire nut on a round of two-up (heads or tails with two coins) and loses.
Effectively destitute, the arrogant teacher finds himself stuck in "The Yabba," as the locals affectionately call it, dependant on the forceful kindness of strangers that so rankled him earlier. There's always another pint of beer at the ready and a welcoming couch or floor to pass out on, so long as he's ready to persist in the orgy of drunken shenanigans.
Lubricated by this carefree lifestyle, Grant is drawn further and further down to the level of base blue-collar behaviour he feels is so terribly beneath him. His descent culminates in wanton violence (the kangaroo sequence, filmed during an actual hunt, is tough to stomach) and sexual escapades that rub raw his moral fibre.
While it's impossible to justify showing the murder of animals on screen in a work of fiction, Kotcheff and crew insisted that the footage, which they never intended to get, be used to accurately depict the horrors facing the kangaroo population of Australia from the very type of careless jackasses the movie concerns. The result makes the film, which is already unsettling thanks to editing that effectively evokes the disorienting alienation of being blackout drunk around people whose entire approach to life makes your skin crawl, all the more unnerving.
By showing us how very close to the surface our animal nature slumbers, Wake In Fright is a harsh reminder that, in the absence of hope or ambition, the bestial is only ever a binge away. (Draft House)
ReviewsJul 31, 2015
Bikes vs CarsFredrik Gertten
The battle between bikes and cars is a fight most people probably don't even know they're a part of (unless you side strongly with the forme...
ReviewsJul 31, 2015
Mission: Impossible – Rogue NationChristopher McQuarrie
Somewhere along the line, the makers of the long-running, Tom Cruise-starring franchise Mission: Impossible decided to stop creating uninten...
ReviewsJul 30, 2015
Best of EnemiesMorgan Neville and Robert Gordon
Given how easy it is to turn on any of the countless news programs and find two pundits from different sides of the aisle screaming over eac...
ReviewsJul 29, 2015
Turbo KidFrançois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell
Turbo Kid follows a lonely, scavenging young man (Degrassi star Munro Chambers) fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic Canadian wastela...
ReviewsJul 29, 2015
VacationDirected by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein
There's something strangely comforting about the transient nature of a road trip comedy like Vacation that tosses off its comic set pieces w...
ReviewsJul 28, 2015
Mortadelo and Filemon: Mission ImplausibleJavier Fesser
Mortadelo y Filemon (known to Anglophones as Mort & Phil) are beloved Spanish comics characters. First featured in 1958, it was a comic book...
ReviewsJul 25, 2015
The Big Lebowski Live ReadOlympia Theatre, Montreal QC, July 24
Few caper comedies have captured a true fan base quite like The Big Lebowski. There have been countless festivals and theme nights since its...
ReviewsJul 23, 2015
Like so many of Adam Sandler's recent comedies, it's hard to figure out who the intended audience is for Pixels. A silly trifle that would h...