Night of Fear is a 1972 Australian horror film that was originally intended as the pilot for a TV series. In fact it’s much too graphic to have ever had any chance at all of being screened on television, and it was actually banned even for cinema release! It bears some resemblance to the redneck horror movies being made in the US at that time, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
A woman crashes her car on a deserted road and finds herself stalked by a shambling, mumbling, clearly in-bred and obviously deranged psycho killer. She ends up in his shack, which is surrounded by horses’ heads on poles and filled with stuffed rats and skulls and newspaper clippings about gruesome murders. He also keeps large numbers of very live rats and cages of feral cats.
It’s a very short movie (which betrays its origins as a TV pilot) and this works in its favour – it’s very focused and very intense. There’s a fairly convincing atmosphere of menace and insanity and even the outdoor scenes in the forest manage to be extremely claustrophobic. There’s also no dialogue at all, something that may have seemed gimmicky in a longer film but in this 50-minute feature it works well.
Carla Hoogeveen is effective as the terrorised woman, and Norman Yemm (a well-known Australian actor of the time) is decidedly creepy as the psycho killer. It’s very much a “city person realises she should never ever have left the safety of the big city” type of movie, and it’s a reasonably good example of the breed.
It’s been released on DVD as a double-feature with a later movie also by writer-director Terry Bourke, Inn of the Damned. It has to be said that Night of Fear is by far the better of the two movies. It’s less ambitious but much tighter and much more atmospheric, it has some genuine scares and some genuine creepiness, and it’s technically much more interesting with some effective cinematography. Both movies include a commentary track, so for anyone interested in slightly off-beat horror or in exploring the strange work of Australian Gothic it represents very good value.