[Review] “Lost Gully Road” is a Dead End

Not every horror movie needs to be a gore-filled, action-packed thrill ride; there’s a lot to be said for films that take the time to develop strong characters and build a slow-burn atmosphere of nail-biting tension that drives the audience to the edge long before anything actually happens on the screen.

Lost Gully Road, directed and co-written by Australian filmmaker Donna McRae (Johnny Ghost), tries very hard to be that second kind of movie, one that emphasizes style over substance in telling the story of a young woman hiding out in a remote cabin from her dangerous and potentially deadly boyfriend. The film, shot by cinematographer László Baranyai (Downriver), has a lush look to it, both the surrounding woods where the main character, Lucy (Adele Perovic) likes to walk and in the cabin itself where she likes to get drunk. 

It’s almost hypnotic to watch, at least for the first 30 minutes or so. And then that little voice in the back of your head starts to grumble, “When is something interesting — or scary — going to happen?” Soon, your brain stops looking at all the pretty scenery and starts to listen to that voice as it grows more and more insistent. When? When? When?

The answer is never. Not in this movie. Sure, there is a scene at the end where Lucy is attacked by a ghost, but it’s not very effective since you never see the ghost and are left watching Lucy get jerked around the house by some low budget digital effect while the soundtrack goes into overdrive with some sort of invisible ghost attack sound effect. It’s startling the first time it happens, but less and less so as the attack goes on and on and on.

The real reason the ghost fight scene — and the rest of the movie — doesn’t work is that while the filmmakers spent a lot of time building an atmosphere that is great to look at, they forgot to make it threatening, too. We hear Lucy and her sister talk about the bod boyfriend, but only in the most general terms. We don’t get any idea of what he did to be so “bad”. There is no flashback scene of a crime, no conversational details between the siblings, no sense of what Lucy and her sister are so afraid of. And without a three-dimensional bad guy for the audience to boo, the film has no real focus.

  • John Black, Lost Gully Road
John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.