Australian Horror has established itself with a flair for the grittier side of cinema; Adam Graveley’s debut hard-hitting shocker which received its world premiere at Frightfest 2017 is no exception.
A smitten young couple; Meagan (Jesse McGinn) and Jonathan (Robert Hartburn) escape the stresses of modern life, opting for the quietness of the outback of Western Australia. Moving to a pristine home adjacent to a picturesque orchard, their notion of bliss soon takes a deadly trajectory when they believe they are being watched by someone with aberrant intentions.
Home invasion and terror in the outback has been dramatized often in horror but to Adam Graveley’s credit he has served up a film with an essence of obscurity and innovativeness to it. 3rd Night is surprisingly arbitrary than it first appears to be with Graveley gradually unveiling the plot twists and turns through a breakdown of three chapters.
Isolation is the key theme of 3rd Night which is captured with the use of wide angles over the boundless location. Towering trees and endless bushes conveys a feeling of eeriness as the characters are ultimately locked in the wilderness with no suggestion of the outside world.
As the couple kick-start their future together, their happiness is immediately thrown into jeopardy with the disappearance of Meagan’s beloved pet cat, Nook (a reference to Nanook from The Lost Boys). Animals are often used as fodder to symbolize the looming terror to come and is played out extensively in this film. With the threats of paranoia and anxiety emerging into the fold, it leaves the audience reeling as to whether the couple will band together or fall to pieces (literally!).
Meagan and Jonathan display questionable characteristics when it comes to outwardly investigating their potential stalker. It appears that Graveley was pushing the boundaries of suspense and testing the waters with the instantaneous danger they begin to put themselves in. Certain moments are aggravating when they impulsively head towards potential peril that it somewhat decreases any empathy towards them.
3rd Night claims to be ‘based on true events’ which transpires to be quite vague. Of course, Wolf Creek (2005) implemented this marketing tactic upon its release so it may be safe to say that the events of both films are mere fabrications of missing folk in the backwoods of Australia. Tonally, 3rd Night has quite a fable-esque, mythological feel to it especially with the dark poetic letters that the protagonists keep receiving and don’t heed.
With a minimal run time of 72 minutes, 3rd Night manages to pack in layers of tension, realised fears and strong character development. The leads display authentic passion and chemistry as the doomed married couple.
The film does plenty to keep up the intrigue which is completely worth it once it skyrockets towards the climax. Strong pacing, gorgeous cinematography and implied violence, 3rd Night is unexpectedly twisted and thrilling. It’s advisable to approach it knowing very little to experience its full effect.
For Adam Graveley, it’s a strong first feature which has lay the groundwork for hopefully more compelling genre films to come.