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Wake in Fright

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Wake in Fright is a seminal classic of Australian cinema and widely regarded as one of the most intense and chilling expressions of existential terror to ever grace the big screen. Directed by Ted Kotcheff in 1971, the film flinches from neither desperation nor nihilism, it confronts the viewer with a relentless, raw, and discomfortingly realistic portrayal of life in Australian outback towns during the era.

The film enters upon the life of John Grant, a protagonist portrayed brilliantly by Gary Bond. Grant, a bonded school teacher working in the isolated town of Tiboonda somewhere in the arid Australian Outback, is feeling trapped by his situation and displaced by his surroundings and has no option but to continue for another year in the dusty, forsaken town. Multifaceted Bond strikes a compelling balance between charm and utter disarray, effectively projecting his character's steady descent into the darkest recesses of the soul.

The story unfolds as Grant, played terrifically by Bond, travels to a mining town called Bundanyabba or "The Yabba," as the locals call it, on his way for a holiday in Sydney. Through a series of unfortunate situations, he becomes financially and sociologically trapped in the isolated mining town. The film then takes us through a tumultuous journey as John confronts the harsh reality of life in an unrefined, primitive, and largely male-dominated society.

The dystopian nightmare that is "The Yabba" is a place where a primal, hedonistic culture of heavy drinking, hazardous bets, and kangaroo hunting expeditions holds sway. Alongside Bond, Donald Pleasence, who plays the role of Doc Tydon, a disgraced and alcoholic medical practitioner, leaves a deeply unsettling impression. Pleasence’s portrayal of the disillusioned and malevolent Tydon is filled with grim charm and unsettlingly dry wit, effectively invoking a feeling of unease and horror.

Chips Rafferty's performance as Jock Crawford, the unsettlingly cheerful local police officer, is also noteworthy. His character not only represents the local authority but also exemplifies the local's mindset, indulging in their vices while seemingly indifferent to the disturbing happenings within the community.

The script, adapted by Evan Jones from Kenneth Cook’s novel, does not shy away from portraying the sheer brutality and depravity of the town’s denizens. The narrative, rife with disturbing interactions and experiences, spirals the viewer into a terrifying exploration of humanity's bleak and buried aspects.

Wake in Fright is not merely a horror film about a man being enslaved by uncouth miners; instead, it discloses the chiaroscuro of Australian society in the late 20th century. Backed by compelling performances, the film examines the dichotomy of urban sophistication and rural crudity and gets under the skin of its audience. Kotcheff’s courageous quest into the depths of human nature sets the movie apart as an unforgettable piece of cinema that poses heartbreaking questions about the limitations of civilization.

The cinematography by Brian West is exceptional, capturing the inhospitable Australian landscape with arresting detail. His visual storytelling complements the narrative perfectly, selectively bringing out the stark atmosphere of the outback. The striking use of imagery throughout the movie, from the sun-scorched landscapes to the unnerving night scenes, further elevates the oppressive, menacing nature of "The Yabba."

Adding to this, the music by John Scott permeates the thick and heavy air of the film’s landscape. The score is a constant, eerie accompaniment to John Grant's descent into his pastoral nightmare. It not only adds to the tense atmosphere but also brilliantly contrasts the stranded teacher's sophisticated city upbringing with his unpredictable outback experience.

The rawness of Wake in Fright proves to be its most powerful asset, confronting the audience with a brutally honest depiction of the human existence gone awry amidst an unforgiving and ferocious landscape. It provides an unsettling commentary on the human condition and holds a mirror to the often obscured aspects of society and man's primal nature.

In conclusion, Wake in Fright is a shining beacon in Australian cinema's history. It's a harrowing ride through the political, social, and personal landscapes of a time and place rarely shown on the big screen. With phenomenal performances, an unflinching narrative, and a haunting ambiance, Wake in Fright remains a powerful and enduring cinematic tour-de-force. It’s a film that terrorizes, perturbs, and fascinates in equal measure, ensuring it lingers in the minds of its viewers long after the credits roll.

Wake in Fright is a Drama, Thriller movie released in 1971. It has a runtime of 109 minutes. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.6. It also holds a MetaScore of 85.

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Where can I stream Wake in Fright movie online? Wake in Fright is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at Amazon Prime, Plex, Google Play, YouTube VOD. Some platforms allow you to rent Wake in Fright for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

Ted Kotcheff
Gary Bond, Donald Pleasence, Chips Rafferty
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