The debut film from Australian writer and director Roger Scott, The Marshes is a thrilling horror that’s been described as having a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe about it”.
The Marshes follows three young biologists (played by Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich and Mathew Cooper) conducting research deep in a remote marshland; when they encounter evil, “science ends and survival begins.”
With Halloween sparking a wealth of conversation around the state of horror around the globe, we had Scott give us his opinion on how the Australian scene is fairing while sharing some insight into just how much effort making horror films can require.
The current state of Australian horror, according to Roger Scott:
Recent successes show that Australia is producing interesting and praise-worthy horror films; The Babadook, Wolf Creek, Snowtown and Hounds Of Love are just a few notable titles. However, other than Wolf Creek, success with local audiences seems limited.
The online life of films like 100 Bloody Acres shows that there can be a big audience for homegrown horror, however, the words “Australian horror” are anathema to local distributors. As a filmmaker, it leaves me in two minds as to whether Australians want local horror or not.
My gut feeling is that they do actually want it. If we reframe we can see worldwide the horror genre is doing extremely well and Australian audiences are only too happy to watch the horror offerings available on the major streaming services. The problem seems less one of the genre and more one of representation.
Without Australian horror having much presence on these services or at the local box office I can see that economic imperatives are going to limit homegrown horror films. That would be a terrible shame because horror is an important part of our narrative landscape and our filmmaking industry.
SHOOTING THE MARSHES
I’d worked out in our main location, the Macquarie Marshes, before so I knew what I was in for but nobody else had a clue. Traversing the mud, water and reeds of a wetland can be a test of your endurance at the best of times but making a film out there is something else altogether.
On top of that my producer, who is also my wife, had fallen pregnant during pre-production and by the start of the shoot was six months pregnant, so I was slightly anxious, to say the least about how it was all going to go.
A regular day for us was to don our waders and boots, collect all of our gear and travel to set. It took an hour to an hour and a half to get to set and that journey usually involved the use of 4WD tractors and an amphibious vehicle. What I learned very quickly is that you can never have too much time and it is impossible to over prepare. I would have loved more takes for each set-up and more chances to try different things but that was the trade-off for using that location.
Shooting out there taught us where we need to put resources in order to maximize our shooting time each day. We were aided in this by having a very professional cast and crew, so despite the conditions, everyone did what they had to do with a minimum of fuss.
Dafna Kronental as the protagonist, Pria, had the most screen time, while Eddie Baroo as the antagonist, The Swagman, had much less, at least in the first half of the film, but casting Eddie was a great stroke of luck because he left an indelible mark on the film’s narrative.
His physical and brooding performance permeates the last half of the film as much as Pria’s fraught determination to escape the logic-defying labyrinth she is trapped in. Between the two of them, there is a sort of chemistry which engages the audience and helps propel the action forward. I realise now that good casting not only results in great performances it also helps a production save time.
When I look back on the film now, I think that we did well to achieve what we did. Making a film feels like one long learning experience and no sooner do you finish than you wish you could go back and do it all again applying all of your newly acquired hard earned knowledge.
The Marshes will screen at New Farm Cinemas, Brisbane tonight and Orana Cinema, Albany on November 5, both followed by Q&As. Head to The Marshes website for more details.
Lead image: Eddie Baroo as The Swagman in ‘The Marshes’.