My notes on Two Heads Creek (2020), which is on US digital platforms June 23.
When it comes to representing the ills of any given society, cannibalism always seems to be a) a handy metaphor, and b) an unending source of gruesome jokes. Following the British K-Shop, this Anglo-Australian picture just mixes people-eating into a scattershot indictment of racist attitudes around the world. It risks banging on about the bleeding obvious, but enough of the cutting remarks open wounds to make it worthwhile.
In a British small town, Norman (Jordan Waller, who also wrote) learns after the death of his Polish butcher mother that he and his model sister Annabelle (Kathryn Wilder) were adopted – so the kids tagging his shop with anti-Polish graffiti are wrong about which alien ethnicity he represents, since their long-lost mother is Australian. The siblings head off to the outback town of Two Heads Creek – which is significantly shabbier than the hellholes seen in Wake in Fright, The Cars That Ate Paris and Welcome to Woop Woop – only to be told that their mother has just died, and that the locals will hold a funeral for her during the upcoming Australia Day Celebrations. All the other visitors to the town are Asian immigrants, and it develops that the community is being paid by the government to ‘take care of the immigration problem’ in the most gruesome way imaginable.
The middle of the film gets a bit saggy as we’re well ahead of the incomers in working out just what’s going on – the place has just taken delivery of a huge industrial meat-grinder, for a start – but showcases a lot of veteran Australian talent chewing the scenery as demented sit-com types … Apple (Helen Dallimore), the welcoming tour guide, has her head full of self-actualisation processes that enable her monstrosity, and also does a demented karaoke take of the Skyhooks’ ‘Horror Movie’ (much of the soundtrack features pop songs by Australian smooth rocker Normie Rowe) … German immigrant Hans (Gary Sweet) seems to be the philosophical leader of THC, but gets rudely interrupted as he’s explaining the Star Wars-like backstory … Apple’s feckless husband (Kevin Harrington) and chubby necrophile son (David Adlam) fumble, but prove deadly with a nail-studded boomerang and a crossbow (though the funniest act of violence involves a cricket bat) … venomous Uncle Morris (Don Bridges) snarls ‘fuckin’ pommy bastards’ at Norman and Annabelle, who are Australian by birth … and Aboriginal bus driver Apari (Gregory J. Fryer) occasionally undercuts the whining of all the white characters and reminds us that if anyone here has a legitimate beef with immigrants it’s him.
When the twins’ mother (Kerry Armstrong) turns up alive and with an arsenal of knives, the broad comedy of gross-out embarrassment segues into more or less non-stop carnage for a satisfyingly messy third act. As with early Peter Jackson, what makes the outrageousness work are the occasional grounded moments of small, honest emotion – Waller and Wilder are especially good at being awful to each other when they’re alone, but supportive when others pick on them, and Armstrong’s mad old bat is also surprisingly sweet.
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