Night of Fear/ Inn of the Damned
By: David Michael Brown on April 22, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 50 minutes / 112 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Terry Bourke
Starring:Norman Yemm, Carla Hoogeveen, Briony Behets / Dame Judith Anderson, Alex Cord, Michael Craig, Tony Bonner
Screenplay: Terry Bourke
Tagline: "Hunted and trapped, her nightmare is just beginning" / "Murder, Mystery, Madness"
Country: Australia
Year: 1972/1974
This fantastic little double bill brings to the fore a couple of Australian horror films rarely seen since their original release in the early Seventies. Both films were written and directed by Terry Bourke and produced by Rod Hay and may well be the first horror films made in Australia.

Night of Fear was actually banned on the grounds of indecency and obscenity and has been almost unobtainable for thirty years. As far as I could see this is the first DVD release of the film anywhere. The film's style and storyline hark back to the style of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left despite the fact that Night of Fear was made a few years before.

It's a simple story of a young girl who stumbles onto to property of a rather insane psycho who keeps hundreds of blood-thirsty rats for pets. That's really it but it's the excellent performances, claustrophobic photography and a few "out there" scenes that make Night of Fear well worth watching. The moments involving the killer, a severed head, some rats and our heroine tied to a table are shocking to say the least and stronger than anything else being filmed at the time. Carla Hoogeveen is wonderful as the victim, her ever running and screaming performance once again recalls Marilyn Burns being chased by Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A special mention also has to go to the editing by Ray Alchin, its machine gun pacing, mixing in various images telling the story in a various non-linear fashion is exceptional. Often recalling Russ Meyer's free for all style it adds to the films vicious effect.

Inn of the Damned is more expansive in its scope than Night of Fear but less horrifically claustrophobic as well. Full of horse chases, action score and cigar smoking tough guys it plays like a western; imagine Sam Peckinpah filming a Hammer film in the outback and you get the idea. Its no surprise it was also known as House of the Western Dead. A fitting title as all who visit the mysterious hostel end up dead. An American bounty hunter searches through the Australian forests for clues that may help him discover the hostelries evil secret and meets all types of outback critters on the way,

The Hitchcockian finale recalls the great suspense directors Torn Curtain as our heroes try to kill the villain. "Why don't you just die?" Using knives and axes they chop away as the screen flashes bright red. Groundbreaking nudity and a bathtub lesbian scene also add to the controversy. It seems like Bourke and Hay enjoyed nothing more than to upset our friendly neighbourhood censors.
Video
Both films look fantastic, clean colourful prints, slight damage here and there but nothing to worry about. Obviously the prints look slightly dated but this reviewer was suitably impressed.
Audio
Again the stereo mix is fine, the soundtracks on both have the required effect and are clear and easy to listen to.
Extra Features
The most enjoyable extra is the running commentary provided by producer Rod Hay. He is a fountain of knowledge talking about Australian cinema, Hammer films and plenty of behind the scenes gossip. For Night of Fear Hoogeveen who doesn't seem too thrilled watching the film again joins him. In one humorous moment in the very informal discussion she pleads that the producer cut the more gruesome scenes, which she now feels as unnecessary.

You also get a comprehensive stills and promotional gallery featuring lots of juicy newspaper copy from Night of Fears controversial release, trailers for both films and a selection of trailers for Umbrellas related releases like Long Weekend and Turkey Shoot.
The Verdict
It's a joy to see these films on DVD, watching them both here for the first time its quite alarming how graphic they are for the time. They both have that Seventies grit but also a unique sensibility gained from being made in Australia, it's a shame that both Bourke and Hay haven't ventured into the horror genre again since.
Movie Score
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