31 Days of Horror: Wake in Fright (1971)

31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy!


During his trek home to Sydney from the nowhere town of Tiboonda, bonded school teacher John Grant gets side-tracked in the rough and tumble town of Bundanyabba, or as the locals call it, The Yabba. What starts with some hesitant gambling to win enough money to quit his teaching job quickly spirals into a hellish span of five days stuck with hard drinking, hard fighting, quick shooting Australian rednecks who escort Grant to the gates of his own hell.

Killer Scene:

In a moment that is truly disturbing, so disturbing in fact that the film comes with a warning explaining how the scene was shot, the cadre of drunkards go on a kangaroo murdering spree. Not for food, but for shits and giggles while drunk out of their minds. One tough bloke decides shooting a wounded kangaroo isn’t quite doing it for him, so he takes his knife and fights the kangaroo to the death.

Wake in Fright

Kill Sheet:


2 Skulls Out of 5

There is a clear as day shot of a pale man’s butt and you briefly glimpse his hang-down. Later, there is almost a sex scene that almost shows a pair of breasts, but alcohol rears its ugly vomit inducing head. Still later, there is some heavily implied dude love.


4 Skulls Out of 5

The violence afflicted against men is relatively tame, relegated to rough housing and beatings, but the aforementioned kangaroo slaughter scene, composed of actual footage of kangaroos being hunted by professional, licensed Australian hunters, is very disturbing.


2 Skulls Out of 5

You won’t be jumping out of your seat at any moment, but the film affects you on a psychological level, showing the depths that a civilized man may fall too and revealing the Yabba and it’s inhabitants to be of a sort you’d hoped didn’t exist.

Final Thoughts

Wake in Fright, despite it’s obviously horror title, is not a traditional horror film. In fact, many could make the case it’s not a horror film at all, though clearly I’d disagree. Rather, it’s the type of horror film that is firmly grounded in reality, which makes it all the more disturbing. You go into this film expecting something along the lines of Deliverance or perhaps The Hills Have Eyes or even Wolf Creek, films with clearly delineated bad guys who do overtly bad things. Fright clearly has bad characters, but they’re not so much “bad guys” as they are bad people. The true horror comes from the descent of John who goes from perhaps somewhat annoying in his disdain for outback life to completely unrecognizable. You almost can’t believe that he’s the same character with his actions and the gusto with which he throws himself into them.

If you’ve had your fill of monsters, creatures, vampires, and masked men and are looking for a solidly grounded, utterly real film experience that messes with you for just how un-fantastical it is, Wake in Fright might just be the ticket to fuck you up. In my opinion, this serious thriller is rather unnerving.

How Can You See It? Blu-ray / DVD / Netflix / On Demand In Theaters (limited re-release)

Click here for more 31 Days of Horror

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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