Film (1988; vt Encounter at Raven's Gate). Hemdale. Directed by Rolf de Heer. Written by Marc Rosenberg, de Heer. Cast includes Vince Gil, Celin Griffen, Saturday Rosenberg, Ritchie Singer and Steven Vidler. 89 minutes. Colour.
Australian cinema has produced a number of under-appreciated genre items, such as The Last Wave (1978) and Razorback (1984). This is another, a conspiracy-cum-UFO movie which locates its bizarre storyline in a dried-up, mean-spirited outback. It starts awkwardly with an unnecessary flashback structure, and risks alienating audiences accustomed to complete explanations for all manifestations, but is otherwise an outstanding atmospheric nail-biter. As in the best 1950s cheapies – It Came from Outer Space (1953) is the particular touchstone evoked – the fantastic elements are used to bring out the tensions of the human characters. The pressures on an already uptight policeman turn him into a menace who competes with the influence of the offscreen Aliens as the source of the film's Horror, so that Incident at Raven's Gate wavers between the psycho-movie and alien-encounter genres. Though the film does not produce tentacled monstrosities, it does have a few impressively unsettling moments in the invaded-transformed Raven's Gate farmhouse. [KN]
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