Now and again a horror/comedy comes along that is both intelligent and creative, while equally gore-filled and fun. These movies are quite rare, many struggling to manage the interface between gore, comedy, and social discussion; never quite balancing all three. However, Two Heads Creek is one of those rare gems that shines within the genre. Its gloriously dark script, energetic delivery, and sublime performances matched with a nuanced discussion on nationalism. Its gore and humour layered with a cutting dissection, of the walls being built around nations. The poisoning effects of nationalist politics, BREXIT and detention centres gloriously fed into a mincer. Within a screenplay that celebrates the historical interface between horror, comedy and social commentary; borrowing from The League of Gentlemen, Shaun of the Dead and The Hills Have Eyes. While also creating its own new and unique style that is bathed in delicious dark comedy.
After the death of their British/Polish mother, who ran a butcher’s shop in the heartlands of BREXIT Britain. Norman (Jordan Waller) and his thespian sister Annabelle (Kathryn Wilder) are looking to their future. The insecure and delicate Norman stepping back into the butcher’s shop, his sausage-making skills decidedly ropey. While in contrast, his confident sister Annabelle itches to sell the business and continue with her acting career; her latest role a laxative commercial with global reach. But, as Norman holds the wake of his mother amidst a disaster zone of meaty morsels, a strange phone call catches him off guard. A reverse charge call from Australia, where a mysterious woman asks after his mother before quickly hanging up.
Norman thinks no more of the mysterious call, as he cleans dog shit from the butcher’s shop window. The local kids terrorising the shop, as adults drive-by shouting “Go back to Poland”. Both brother and sister carrying divergent views on the future of the shop. One of them desperate to honour the past and their Polish heritage, while the other simply wants out. However, as Norman and Annabelle head home to clear out their mum’s belongings, a deeply held family secret emerges; they were, in fact, adopted! With their birth mother living in the small town of Two Heads Creek, Australia. The mystery surrounding this news, providing them with the only excuse they need to sell the shop and travel to Australia in search of the truth.
However, as they arrive in Oz, and board a beat up and baking bus for the outback town. Both siblings quickly note that their only travelling companions appear to be a group of new Asian immigrants. Their final destination no regular tourist trap, but a spit and sawdust town that only selected visitors are invited to attend. The sibling’s uneasy feelings only cemented by the silence of their indigenous bus driver and brash, loud-mouthed excitement of their tour guide, Apple (Helen Dallimore).
Every aspect of the crazy, ingenious and wild ride that ensues is beautifully crafted. From the soundtrack through to the mayhem of the small dusty town and its inhabitants. With director Jesse O’Brien keeping proceedings both fast and energetic. While at the same time allowing time for each character to find their place amidst the blood-soaked weatherboards of the outback town. Meanwhile, performances sing with originality, borrowing from the manic energy of Two Thousand Maniacs and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But its the screenplay that elevates Two Heads Creek above and beyond the realms of your standard gory comedy horror. The luscious use of decidedly dark comedy interfacing with current social fears in a glorious horror mash-up. The result of which is a blood-drenched comedy that munches its way into your heart. While at the same time stuffing xenophobia and nationalism into an industrial grinder.
We caught up with Two Head Creeks writer and star Jordan Waller for an informal chat about horror, comedy and the macabre.
Hi Jordan and thanks for taking the time to talk with us about the deliciously dark Two Heads Creek. I absolutely loved it, but have to admit I also have a rather twisted sense of humour! How would you describe your sense of humour and what comedies have, and continue to inspire you?
I too have a dark, sadistic, peri-psychopathic sense of humour. But we can forgive ourselves that, for jokes need victims. And as long as you’re punching up rather than down – something of which I was very conscious in the making of this film – I think humour has a brilliant capacity to do something more than merely entertain. A real hero for me in this respect is Julia Davis – she has a midas touch when it comes to dark humour, because her jokes are sadistic but properly targeted. She’s not overtly political, because she’s cleverer than me – her gift is the ability to make you fall in love with bad people. I admire that.
How long did it take for Two Heads Creek to make its way from page to screen? And were there any challenges in making it a reality?
It took years. I think I started writing the thing the day of the Brexit referendum result, and if you imagine what a prolonged and tedious process that’s been, you get a sense of what it takes to get a little film off the ground. It was originally set in Norfolk – the capital of British inbreeding – but a circuitous path of money, chance encounters and enthusiastic locals saw it getting made years later in a tiny outback village in the middle of Queensland. Fortunately, Australians are just as racist and inbred as we are.
The guts of the movie (excuse the pun) have a lot to say about xenophobia and nationalism, while the cannibalism talks directly to how humans figuratively eat each other through fear and hate. Lacing these big social themes through a comedy/horror must have been a challenge right?
It would have been a lot easier to write had you been there with me, because I couldn’t have expressed the themes more intelligibly myself. In truth, it wasn’t a great challenge because it wasn’t greatly subtle – I wanted something big, idiotic and on the nose, because that best reflects the bigots I was targeting.
Can you tell me about the first horror movie you ever saw? Did it lead to a love of the genre?
It was Silence of the Lambs – and I must have been about eleven years old. My mothers were not aware that I was watching it, otherwise they’d have been deeply concerned – with good reason, as it’s doubtless contributed to my dissipation. I don’t know what it was about the film but it completely captivated me – the shock, the psychology, the twists and turns… Mixed with lesbian icons Anthony Hopkins and Jodi Foster, it was love at first viewing for me.
Throughout the film women are placed in a position of strength, subverting the scream queen influence found in many horrors. How important was it for you to ensure the film had strong and resilient female characters?
It doesn’t make sense to me to write boring, weak and reactive women, because ultimately women make the world go round – men just take all the credit, and bleat on about their heroic, onanistic journeys of self-discovery. Hence Norman, and why I wanted to suspend him as a pathetic central character between the three powerhouses of Annabelle, Apple and Mary. They’re actually doing everything while Norman is pottering around and learning meaningless facts about his origin story – a totally fatuous endeavour, but one that obsesses men like me. But he’s still the lead – much to his sister’s chagrin – because that’s how the world works. And I wanted to play him.
I don’t think we are spoiling anything by saying that this is a film drenched in blood and body parts. What was it like being surrounded by all that gore on set?
Surreal. I remember eating my lunch next to a severed penis one day and though it didn’t quell my appetite entirely, it certainly made me think about ethically sourced pork.
It feels like the cast and crew had an absolute blast working on Two Heads Creek, what memories will stick with you from filming?
I adored everyone who worked on this film – except for my costar Kathryn Wilder who was verbally abusive to me in fifteen-minute intervals, and also a pyromaniac. I don’t think I’ll forget the heat in the meat-shed; the yonic prosthetic glued to my leg; the belly-laughs afforded by the famous bald actor Gary Sweet, and a drink called ‘Bundy’.
If you could pick one activity after lockdown from the following three, which would you choose? A) A weekend crash course in butchery B) A vegan cooking course or C) A budget beer tasting course.
Alas, I’ve done all three during lockdown. I’ve been living with, and cooking for, my mother – she self identifies as a vegan. Her neighbour is a sheep farmer who taught me how to slaughter babies. And I’m an alcoholic. So I think I’d probably celebrate the end of this miserable time with D) A couple of grams of smack.
And finally, which would you prefer? A hot bowl of unknown stew? A dodgy looking sausage? Or a whole raw onion?
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t consumed dodgy sausage in the past.
Director: Jesse O’Brien
Two Heads Creek is available to stream and buy from the 7th September
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