If you’re designing a room for a haunted house, you might want to get some ideas from Night of Fear (1972), an Australian horror film that, at only 54 minutes long, was intended to be a television pilot. There are dead rats in Plexiglas boxes, dirty broken dolls, creepy bunny statues on the mantel, butterflies in shadow boxes, and, the icing on the cake… decoupage done with pictures of naked females.
This shack or cabin is occupied by someone known only as “The Man.” None of the characters have names in Night of Fear. Like his home, The Man (Norman Yemm) himself would be a good model for a crazed hermit killer. He’s bearded, has a horrible scar under his right eye, and has a hitch in his get-along as he walks through the woods in heavy boots, one of which is rigged with a brace.
Before the opening credits roll, The Man pursues “Horse Girl” (Briony Behets) until he captures her and locks her in a room in his cabin. We’re not sure what ultimately happens to her, but in the first minutes of the movie, The Man strokes the sharp edge of his axe with his thumb and grabs a whip. We do know what happens to her horse. Let’s just say PETA would not be happy about it.
The Man does the same thing with “The Woman” (Carla Hoogeveen), but we get to see what happens to her on the other side of the door. Except for a few confusing back-and-forth shots of three concurrent events after the opening credits, the entire movie depicts the pursuit, capture and torture of The Woman by The Man. With its short running time and horrific style, you don’t miss lack of a more complex plot.
Night of Fear is very well made by writer/director Terry Bourke, who would make Inn of the Damned three years later. There’s never a dull moment as he uses unique camera angles and jump scares with successful payoffs to keep us on the edge of our seats. Did I mention there’s no dialogue? There’s not. However, there’s plenty of screaming. I’d include this as part of the style that makes it so scary.
I realize that foreign television is not as squeaky clean as American network television; however, I cannot imagine this being on TV anywhere in 1972. It turns out it wasn’t; in fact, it was banned for a while before being released in theaters. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t want to see something like this on TV. These days, you can find plenty like it on premium channels and Netflix, but Night of Fear was ahead of its time.
Written by Terry Bourke
Directed by Terry Bourke
Starring Norman Yemm, Carla Hoogeveen
Released November, 1972 (Australia)
RT 54 min.
Home Video Sinister Cinema (DVD)