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So, here’s the thing. I’m not usually a fan of horror anthologies. Whilst I have enjoyed the more well known films that have carried the collective stories that tap into the the dark genre, such as Creepshow, Trick r’ Treat or V/H/S, invariably I feel a little let down by some of the stories that don’t quite meet the mark or the high standard of the better stories within the anthology. For every “The Crate” or “Something to Tide You Over” there’s a “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” or “They’re Creeping Up On You” using Creepshow as an example. So when viewing this latest offering from Australia entitled Dark Whispers Vol 1, I ventured with slight hesitation, but was pleasantly surprised by the result. 

Inspired by the recent anthologies A Night of Horror Vol. 1 and XX, Australian director and producer, Megan Riakos teamed up with Leonie Marsh and festival director Briony Kidd to surmount a crack team of female visionists and creatives to deliver 10 highly-crafted tales of dread.

Megan Riakos on creating women’s horror anthology, Dark Whispers Vol 1

So, let’s delve into each of these tales one by one and see if these collective stories have enough strength and cohesion to drive the narrative together. 

Director: Angie Black; Writer: Michael Harden

We open up with a fairly brief and condense tale that sees a grieving mother trying to capture those precious moments with her daughter trapped in a limbo of intense sorrow.
The short timeframe on display, Black weaves enough emotion for the audience to connect with the mother’s pain.

Writer/Director: Kaitlin Tinker; Writer: Jean-Phillipe Lopez

This next tale dives into the fantastical, as an elderly man sets out to snare a mermaid amongst laughter and ridicule, but all is not as it appears as the story reveals a dark and sinister world lurking beneath the depths of fancy.

Writer/Director: Isabel Peppard; Writer: Warwick Burton

I’m a huge sucky for stop motion and Peppard showers our visual senses with a glorious tale of heartbreak that is stunning and captivating, whilst tapping into a lamentable suffering.

Director: Briony Kidd; Writer: Claire d’Este

This was one of my favourites of the bunk as Kidd projects a tale of vanity and self-appreciation. Told from the perspective of a glamorous actress who is reminiscent of Norma Desmond with her ambition and thrives so much on attention that without the attention she will wither away.

Writer/Director: Jub Clerc; Co-Writer: Sylvia Clarke

I equally had a lot of time and love for this tale of two kids in the Kimberely who venture into the mangroves despite the warnings of the Gooynbooyn Woman, believing her campfire stories to be the stuff of myth and legend. Clerc invokes an old story and infuses it with modern storytelling that beautifully captures the Dreamtime stories passed down from generation to generation through Aboriginal culture.

Writer/Director: Marion Pilowsky; Story by Issy Pilowsky

Here I was reminded just how dark and glorious Anthony LaPaglia’s performances can be, and how he portrays an average Australian guy who can slip into sinister so easily. Playing a guy who picks up a hitchhiker, who gets more than he bargained for and a ride that will change his life forever.

Director: Lucy Gouldthorpe; Writer: Claire d’Este

Online dating from the perspective of a female vampire in search for her next prey provides us with an enjoyably dark story that defies your assumptions and adds a little twist in her desire for blood.

Writer/Director: Katrina Irawati Graham

This one also left a lasting impression on me and uses the famous Indonesian ghost story of Kuntil Anak as its inspiration.
Kuntil Anak is a ghost who died whilst pregnant and when she appears before a grieving widow, she is confronted by a force far greater than her dark haunting embodiment has encountered before, unfolding a battle of energy and light in her wake. 

Writer/Director: Madeleine Purdy; Writer: Joel Perlgut

This quirky tale on the concept of “you are what you eat” or in this case, smoke, sees Maeve searching for a healthy alternative to her smoothies, but finds a strange concoction in the mix.
When nature fights back, it attacks the weak-minded souls, and Purdy provides a witty and sardonic view of humanity.

Writer/Director: Janine Hewitt

Rounding out the dectet of stories comes a dark and wondrous tale that is beautifully played by its performers Asher Keddie and Bree Desborough. The homogeneity that marries this film alongside the first tale, Birthday Girl and the sense of being stuck in one’s emotions helps to cement the collection, as Zoe has become a prisoner in her own home, terrorized by a stalker containing her in her fear and despair.

Weaving its way through the various tales, Riakos envelops a series of segments entitled, The Book of Dark Whispers, as a young woman who inherits a mysterious book from her mother that symbolises the passing down through the years and the shared emotional baggage that we inevitable take on from previous generations.

It’s a captivating performance from Andrea Demetriades who manages to embody all the viewers thoughts and emotions and projects them through her character, and in doing so provides the heart and soul of the movie.

The Prognosis:

Dark Whispers Vol 1 really exceeded my expectations when it comes to horror anthologies that are so often worn down by the lesser stories in the collection.

Here though are some excellently well-crafted stories that make for a highly enjoyable narrative and proves that there are some dark and sinister tales to be told from some exciting female creatives that deserve praise and recognition. I look forward to further tales from these powerful and thought-provoking storytellers.

Dark Whispers Vol.1 will be screening at Monsterfest Australia 2019, where cast and crew will be available for a Q&A post film screening time below:

Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney

  • Saul Muerte