‘Late Night With the Devil’ And The 10 Best Australian Horror Films

From found-footage of a '70s talk show gone satanic to an embalmed hand that communicates with the dead—with stops in between for black mold, a prom night gone terribly wrong, and the Babadook.

The poster for Late Night With the Devil, Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman in The Babadook, and Aisha Dee in Sissy (clockwise from left). Courtesy of IFC Films and Shudder; Shudder; Matt Nettheim/Causeway Films

Australian-made horror is flourishing. Late Night with the Devil, a new film about a possessed girl exorcised on live TV, joins a recent stable of terrifying horror movies made down under. Australia has long produced quality horrors, such as Wake in Fright and Wolf Creek, offering viewers uniquely unnerving stories. Some reveal the country’s outback as a terrifying place of dread, isolation, and hopelessness. Others show brutal creatures lurking sight unseen in the wild—and even sometimes close to home. Recent films, such as The Babadook and Talk to Me, put terror back in the suburbs, with unsettling accounts of paranormal forces that grip victims and won’t let go. 

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Here are Australia’s 10 greatest horror films, from the 1970s to now. There are haunting psychological studies that mine obsession and paranoia, to infamous “true story” retellings that suggest the continent is a place skulking with far stranger creatures than just kangaroos and koalas.  Dive in and prepare to face the Australian bushland, and the beasts therein, in all their evil.    

Late Night with the Devil (2024)

Found-footage horror fans are in for a treat. Late Night with the Devil threads together satanic panic, bygone late-night TV, and the paranormal into one compellingly tense and nostalgic watch. It stars David Dastmalchian as a 1970s variety show host struggling with both poor ratings and heavy grief (after the death of his wife). When a questionable pitch lands his way for an segment with a girl from a former religious cult (à la Jim Jones and his Kool-Aid clan), he leaps at the chance to boost ratings—with dire consequences. Late Night shines with its inventive play on past social paranoias while playfully winking at viewers—as if TV audience members too—as we watch the chaos unfurl on screen. It’s all one slow, sinister burn that ultimately grips tight and won’t let go during its violent, crackling crescendo end.  Stream on Shudder

 

Wolf Creek (2005)

The Australian outback is one scary place: lethal snakes, ravenous dingos and an unhinged serial killer or two. Inspired by the infamous backpacker murders in the early 2000s, Wolf Creek is a frightening tale about three young travellers entrapped by a demented bushman (John Jarratt) with one evil agenda. A grindhouse aesthetic filters the increasingly menacing cat-and-mouse game between the backpackers and this madman, which will have you opting for a hotel for your next holiday. Be warned that this film was part of the noughties “torture porn” movement, so some scenes are gory in their execution (pun intended). But for those willing to brave the bodily horror, Wolf Creek is one dark warning about the terror of the wilderness and the hungry creatures lurking about—animal and human. Stream on Tubi

Sissy (2022)

Sissy breathes new life into the age-old revenge story, only now told for the Instagram age. When childhood friends Cecilia (Aisha Dow) and Emma (Hannah Barlow) reconnect in their 20s, one is a wellness influencer on the up and the other is a soon-to-be-bride. An invitation to belatedly join Emma’s bachelorette weekend sees Cecilia begin a bloodshed that’s part-vengeance and part-mental snap. There’s a gnawing unease to Sissy as we wonder whether Cecilia is who she really says she is, and the movie’s satirical take on influencer culture and cheeky play with horror tropes makes for deeply satisfying viewing. In today’s social media age, the gulf between digital fantasy and daily reality—a sane online wellness advocate or an unbalanced rogue killer—is bridged with deliciously satiating results. Stream on Shudder

Wake in Fright (1971)

Descend into a dark personal abyss of drunken misfortune and emotional ruin with 1971’s Wake in Fright. The film tells the story young English schoolteacher, Gary Bond (John Grant), who slides down a slippery slope of drinking, gambling, and debt that leaves him stranded in a menacing small rural town. Grim fortune soon follows, as Bond attempts to flee (and evade his ballooning debts) but fate deals him a cruel hand and has him return right back to the town. Wake in Fright is a jolting and sinister exposé on how masculinity, money, and manifest destiny have failed to civilize Australia’s colonial settlers. The drunken madness chronicled in the film reveals how close at hand barbarity is in Australia’s remote lands—and its people.  Stream on Plex

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook is a masterclass in horror that helped recharge the 2010s revival of horror films made down under. Its namesake—a fiendish entity borne of the trauma Amelia (Essie Davis) harbors over the loss of her husband—appears first in a children’s book and then begins stalking both mother and son (Noah Wiseman), like a monster lurking under the bed. The Babadook—seemingly a spectral presence representing unacknowledged grief—won’t give up haunting Amelia. But is the Babadook even real? As Amelia’s son unravels (throwing tantrums and then talking serenely about death), the film cleverly embraces psychological strife alongside literary tropes to stage a delicate dance between monster movie and domestic study on mother-son relationships undone by trauma.  Stream on Netflix

Lake Mungo (2008)

America had Paranormal Activity; Australia had Lake Mungo. The found-footage/faux documentary film retraced the paranormal presence that haunts one family after their daughter, 16-year-old Alice (Talia Zucker), drowns at a lake. With its budget Super-8 aesthetic, the documentary team speaks with Alice’s family members, who retell their memories of Alice along with the recent spooky bumps in the night. Videocams are then propped up in and outside the house with truly unsettling results. It’s a slow build but offers a visceral experience that hooks you in with its eerie ghost story and forceful family drama. The more is learned about Alice, the more impenetrable a presence she becomes, even as she lingers in the astral plane. Be warned: there’s a final jump scare that will get even the most steely among you. Stream on Tubi

You’ll Never Find Me (2023)

A clever inversion of horror gender roles, You’ll Never Find Me is one foreboding and claustrophobic character study. An old man (Brendan Rock) and visiting girl (Jordan Cowan) play a dangerous psychological game of cat-and-mouse inside a rundown trailer one rainy night. As a violent storm rages outside, the melancholic man waxes lyrical on the failures of modern society while his new houseguest begins making ever-increasing manic overtures. A deep distrust festers in the air as the two square off psychologically in a fraught and unnerving conversation filled with deceit and fictions. It all crescendos to one completely unexpected final act cleverly explaining much of the deep, insidious tension that came before. Stream on Shudder

Relic (2020)

Nestled somewhere between The Babadook and Hereditary, Relic chronicles another complex family dynamic across three generations of women. The family house where grandmother Edna (Robyn Nevin) lives might have ever-spreading black mold in it, but that is the least of the family’s problems: grief, regret, and something spectral. Edna is completely undone by dementia in her decaying house while her daughter (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter play a willful game of avoidance that their living elderly relative is turning into a ghost herself. The horror of Relic lies less on jump scares and ghost than on the corporeal—and often unspoken—fear of our own bodily degradation and mental ruin. Edna’s body and mind might be rotting away, but the grotesquery remains that her family deny this cruel reality we bear witness to. Stream on Shudder

Talk to Me (2022)

If you could speak with the dead via an embalmed hand, would you? A group of brash, thrill-seeking suburban teenagers decide to tempt the other side and make that call. Talk to Me, the 2022 making of twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou, sees these kids strapped into kitchen chair, start the timer and conjure departed spirits to briefly inhabit their human world. That is until one day our heroine, Mia (Sophie Wilde), takes it too far. Set against a deeper exploration of loss, the film is a confrontational and devilish dance with the departed, one that crashes through its scenes much like the haunted hand that thrashes its victims. The carnage by Talk to Me’s end proves less the teens’ battered physical bodies than their lurking emotional trauma. It all becomes a grim story on how such pain can be fodder for nefarious forces lurking on the other side. Stream on Showtime/Paramount+

The Loved Ones (2009)

An Australian take on the right-of-passage ritual that is high-school prom—and the consequences when hearts are broken. When heartthrob Brent (Xavier Samuel) rejects a request from Lola (Robin McLeavy) to take her to the school formal, he becomes an unwitting guest at Lola’s own private dance party. Joining in the torturous festivities is Lola’s father (John Brumpton), who wields his toolbox on the luckless boy to keep him both animated and alive for the night’s proceedings. The Loved One nods to past high school horrors—from Carrie to Prom Night—to deliver a macabre, and often grotesque, glimpse into the dark side of teenage angst.  and unrequited obsession. Be warned about said drill bits but know the film doesn’t always take itself so seriously, so there’s plenty of wry humor (like Lola dancing to the song “Not Pretty Enough”) to counterbalance its unrelenting bloodshed. Available for rental Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, YouTube, and elsewhere. 

 

‘Late Night With the Devil’ And The 10 Best Australian Horror Films