Jackie Shannon

Forget period dramas and coming of age films – Australian cinema has been placed in a genre film stranglehold of late, with new filmmaking technology and diverse means of release and exhibition opening up the market for young producers and directors seemingly raised on an endless diet of John Carpenter and Wes Craven movies. From Charlie’s Farm and 100 Bloody Acres to Infini and Terminus, and upcoming efforts like Scare Campaign and Observance, the sight of blood and the sound of screams have been increasingly common in local cinemas, and on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming services.

The latest Aussie genre flick to come barreling around the pike is Red Billabong, which has just been picked up for theatrical and home entertainment distribution throughout Australia and New Zealand by Pinnacle Films. Also on board is Arclight Films – one of the world’s leading sales companies for theatrical, television, and home entertainment – who will be across the film’s international release.

Starring Home & Away’s Dan Ewing, Dance Academy favourite, Tim Pocock, Sophie Don, Jessica Green (Lightning Point), Ben Chisholm, John Reynolds, Emily Joy, James Straiton, Felix Williamson (Underbelly: Razor, The Great Gatsby) and Gregory Fryer (The Sapphires), Red Billabong makes the terrifying most of its sparse outback locations, and grinds maximum tension out of every scene. In a small rural town, two brothers discover old secrets and family lies. As their friends start to go missing, they fear that they are being stalked by someone or something from their worst nightmares. But is the threat supernatural, or something more real…but just as dangerous?

The debut feature from experienced costume supervisor, Luke Sparke (Beneath Hill 60, The Pacific), Red Billabong will feature something new for Australian cinema: a wholly CGI villain. “I can’t recall another Aussie film integrating a fully CGI character into a film like this,” Sparke told Cinema Australia during the production of Red Billabong. “We need to be sure that it’s working – and it is. We’re plugging away at the visual effects. These things take time, but doing something never done before in Australian cinema takes even longer.

And with a release now locked in, Australian audiences will get a chance to see this looming, hi-tech-created threat in the back half of the year. “We’re thrilled to be working with Pinnacle Films,” says Sparke of the impending big screen bow of Red Billabong. “The films that they have released speak for themselves. I’m very excited to have Red Billabong coming to Australian audiences, and I hope that they’ll get a kick out of the film. It’s action packed, funny, and exciting. It’s a story about Australian mythology that they haven’t heard of before.”

Red Billabong will be released later this year.

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