After Australia suffered devastating bushfires, many animals were killed, and many still needed help. Bailey (Alexandra Park) is making a new documentary about the current status of Australian wildlife and the work involved behind the scenes since the bushfires occurred. She is also interested in documenting the work that happens to protect all Australian animals. After reaching out to various conservationists, asking for people to feature in her documentary and show her around, Grace (Sisi Stringer) and Ben (Harry Greenwood) accept.
The three begin their journey, and Bailey is given plenty of information and opportunities to film her documentary, along with interviewing Grace and Ben. Through the many conversations the three share while walking, camping and observing, we learn more details about the characters, including the fact that Bailey is still dealing with the loss of her brother, who was a firefighter. However, as the journey deeper into the outback continues, the trio soon discovers a rare species known as Carnifex, an animal quite protective of its territory.
Sure, we’ve all heard of the rumour of drop bears based on the Carnifex. A horror film with a similar concept to Jaws, the film enjoys building suspense and hype by keeping the Carnifex creature somewhat hidden to create an intense mystery right from the start. Audiences will be curious to see what the Carnifex creature looks like as our leads start to make new unsettling discoveries around them. Naturally, as the film progresses this pays off, leading to an intense finale and a substantial payoff. Visually, Carnifex is strong. Everything on-screen, such as nature, animals, and the outback itself, is crystal clear and stunning to look at. It’s evident this film has been made to watch on a big cinema screen. It is quite dark at times (especially in the third act), which, again, warrants a cinema recommendation.
Carried by a small cast, the performances are generally great, but character developments, including any backstories, are weaker. Some characters are developed throughout the film, but this development is minor, with vague details. This includes Bailey’s back story about her lost brother. While this reveal is touching at the moment, it feels slightly pointless to the film’s heart and goes nowhere. Developing why Bailey wants to film a documentary in the first place is something that also feels ignored. The chemistry between Alexandra Park and Sisi Stringer is excellent. Actor Harry Greenwood is given the task of creating a more comedic character. Sadly, this comedic character is a major hit-and-miss. Some gags for this character will have audiences eye-rolling or cringing in their seats.
Overall, this is a solid Australian horror film with a few familiar beats relating to the build-up and the reveal of the blood-craving Carnifex. Visually stunning, Carnifex is made to be enjoyed on a big screen and in a pitch-black room. For the most part, performances are strong, but the characters have questionable aspects. These include the development of their character and backstories that hold no real value, worth or reason for being shared. As an Australian film, it’s great to see a feature that manages to introduce a new concept based on the famous scare tale of drop bears. It’s a slow burn with a substantial payoff with a few jumps, scares, and surprises. Ultimately, I found Carnifex to be a fun watch and bloody thrilling.
28th November 2022
Written by Peter Walkden
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Our opinion on this feature has also been submitted to Rotton Tomatoes (Audiences Score*).