Straight off the bat, when I heard about this new series that was launching on AMC+, I was pulled in by its premise, such is the hook dangled before me.
Warwick Thornton, who has done some amazing work on feature films such as Samson and Delilah, and Sweet Country providing one of the most prominent and prestigious writer / director to amplify an Indigenous voice with great effect. In his latest screen outing, Thornton ventures into a short series centred on a more horror element to his material to direct an anti-invasion message through vampire fantasy infused with a twist on Aborignal folklore.
Not only is this a fresh take on the tried and tested formula of those creatures of the night, but one that is heralded in strength through its Indigenous perspectives.
Purely judging by the first episode alone (Pest Control), there’s a lot of ground to cover in order to present the audience with the legend or backstory, plus introduce us to the key players that will form the narrative. There is time and dedication thrown into these key areas too, proving that Thronton not only knows his craft, has a passionate voice, but also will allow time to deepen the characters and add weight to their integrity.
Our central figures so far look to two Indigenous hunters through a father and daughter team charged with protecting the local community from a colony of vampires in the heart of the South Australian desert. It is when an Aborginal man is kidnapped by suspected vampires that the team are forced into action. The father, Tyson (Rob Collins – Cleverman, Extraction) comes in with a carefree approach to life, set in fulfilling his duty, potentially at the cost of his family. Whereas the daughter, Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) is a hard-working, focused teenager, who just wants to focus on her studies and not be dragged into her fathers crazed schemes. The relationship between these two is integral to our interest as a viewer, and I’m glad to say that it pays off as they slightly off balanced connection, in which they are continuously torn apart and pulled back again to one another through loyalty and their own beliefs and passions highlights the generational divide between them and the need to keep up with the traditions as laid down before them, whist also been constantly pulled through Australia’s dark past to deal with the pain and hurt that has been set in its place.
Whilst this could easily be a dark and foreboding tale, Thornton along with his writing partner, Brendan Fletcher are able to sizzle the dialogue with a nice blend of humour and drama. An idea that plays well with the family dynamic on screen.
Whilst it has a slow burn start, there is enough to Firebite’s first episode to draw you in and want to know where it may take you next.
Firebite is currently streaming on AMC+