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