Entertainment :: Movies

Wake In Fright

by Jake Mulligan
Contributor
Wednesday Jan 16, 2013
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Literally thought lost for four decades - the film negative was found in a container marked "to be destroyed" - Ted Kotcheff’s "Wake In Fright" was this year’s big genre discovery. Taking the Australian Outback and turning it into the catalyst for a fever dream nightmare; "Fright" is disturbing, unsettling, and often times darkly comic. In fact, it was probably marked for destruction by Australia’s tourism board.

"Want a beer?" That’s a refrain John Grant (Gary Bond) will hear all too often. Stuck for the weekend in the desolute, Hicksville "Yabba" - some gambling has left him stranded halfway to his vacation home, where he planned to meet his girlfriend - he’ll eventually drink himself into oblivion. But this is closer to Scorsese’s "After Hours" than to "Leaving Las Vegas." Every setback he suffers has an ironic, almost nihilistic edge to it. It’s like a melding of Australian exploitation cinema and Kafka-esque folly. So obviously, it was one of the best movies I saw last year.

The Blu-ray, being released by Drafthouse Films, comes with a number of worthwhile extras. First, you get a lot of director Ted Kotcheff (also known for directing "First Blood" and the eminently undervalued "North Dallas Forty"). There’s an audio commentary where he speaks over the film, then two further interviews - one made for the disc, another from a film festival - that add up to about another hour’s worth of footage.

Finally, you get two news segments on the film; one from its original release, and one on the recent restoration. Now here comes the warning: "Wake In Fright" is not for everyone. One climactic scene, which depicts (without effects) the vicious slaughter of kangaroos by drunken maniacs armed with shotguns, will leave even the strongest stomach stirring. And you may never want to drink a beer ever again.

"Wake in Fright"
Blu-ray
Drafthousefilms.com
$29.97

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