If there’s one major thing that the Australian TV and film industry get right, it’s the ability to produce top-notch scream-fests and psychological thrillers. And Sweet River, an Australian psychological film launching on Netflix on December 5, is no exception.
The haunting movie centres around Hanna (Lisa Kay) who returns to the sleepy town of Billins, nestled deep in the sugar cane fields, where her four-year-old son Joey was abducted by notorious serial killer Simpkins (Jack Ellis) and is now presumed dead.
On hearing the news that Simpkins had died and her son’s DNA was found on his property, the emotionally damaged Hanna rents a small farmhouse in the valley near to where Simpkins lived and mounts her own investigation.
Her next-door neighbours, John (Martin Sacks) and Elenore Drake (Genevieve Lemon) own the surrounding cane fields and as the official synopsis reads: “John and Elenore are strangely cold and distant, and the townsfolk are also hostile, viewing Hanna as a meddling outsider disturbing their tightly knit farming community.
“This town has its secrets and a gaping, horrific wound that will not heal: several years earlier, a local school bus mysteriously ran off the road and into a river, with all the children on-board perishing in its icy waters.
“When Hanna starts to see mysterious children in the town’s eerily rolling fields, her emotional state fragments even further. But Hanna’s obsession to uncover the truth also starts to reveal the town’s darkest secrets…secrets that both the living and the dead will fight to protect.”
The film also stars Chris Haywood (Sleeping Beauty), Rob Carlton (Chandon Pictures), Eddie Baroo (Black Sails), Sam Parsonson (Love My Way), Bryan Roberts (Strip Club) and Jeremy Waters (Life with Miriam).
It is a powerful exercise in high-concept local edge-of-your-seat thrillers and is even a Scream-Fest International Film Festival winner.
Directed by Justin McMillian in his directorial debut, the filmmaker told FilmInk that “for a long time” he’d been “fascinated with the power of fear as a storytelling tool”.
“After seeing A Quiet Place, I completely reconsidered the way I looked at the horror genre and was inspired to write a psychological horror story with an emotional message.”
Sweet River launches on Netflix in Australia and New Zealand on December 5.