Using the Gothic for good with ‘’Ghost Species’’ and ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’

With my first blog post being about ‘’Ghost Species’’ and my second on ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, what better way to end the trilogy than by combining the two. For those that have not yet seen or read ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, I want to once again recommend you do. It’s not only a great and iconic piece of Australian Gothic, but also just a stellar work in general. Now then, on with the topic:

By now we’re most likely all very familiar with typical Gothic elements and their intended use. I will focus on three of them for this blog post. These being the uncanny, which blurs the lines between what is real and what is not, effectively heightening the sense of unease. The sublime, which evokes feelings of both sheer horror and simultaneously sheer beauty through vast landscapes for example. And finally the monster, arguably the most famous Gothic trope which unsurprisingly serves as a source of looming terror for both the reader and the characters. In short, these tropes are closely linked to horror and the macabre. But that is not always the case.

Here is where ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’ and ‘’Ghost Species’’ come into play. Take Eve for example. Initially, everything about here is presented in a way that makes it clear for the reader that she is something not human, more specifically not like the rest of the humans in the story. Her appearance and her behavior are always purposefully kept in the twilight zone between human and not human, a state of uncanniness. As the story progresses and her character gets much more fleshed out, it becomes apparent that her differences are much more superficial than previously assumed. She is a Neanderthal, though possesses qualities that resemble those of a Homo Sapiens. She is much stronger than those around her, but can be just as delicate and is very capable of feeling and expressing deep emotions. The entire sequence at the party is a great example of that, where it shows Eve pondering feelings of love not unlike anyone in this day and age would. Towards the very end of the novel, when Lucas is almost killed, the source of the uncanny becomes a source of hope when Eve decides to use her inhuman strength to fend off Drago. I consider this a really great and effective subversion of the classic monster trope in Gothic literature and a nice twist on the uncanny on top of just being a really exciting moment in general.

In ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, the ominous rock, looms silently and is always made to appear alluring yet threatening. Both its beauty and its terrifyingly mysterious aura capture the essence of the sublime quite nicely. It is initially framed by Mrs. Appleyard as something dangerous that is not to be explored, only to be observed from a safe distance. To the girls that eventually decide to explore the rock though, it serves more as a symbol of emancipation and independence. They can be seen taking off both their gloves and eventually their shoes the further they ascend, which shows how they free themselves from the chains of Appleyard College and the strict societal norms of the early 20th century in general. This gained independence is thanks to the previously demonized rock that is now painted in a completely different light than in the beginning.

Overall, the use of Gothic elements in both ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’ and ‘’Ghost Species’’ serves to subvert what readers and viewers have come to know as traditional elements of the Gothic. Instead of purely horror and fear, these elements are a symbol of strength and independence among others. Eve uses her inhuman abilities to protect and the rock gives the girls the freedom to explore a world outside of the confines of a facility that is arguably more fit as a symbol of the uncanny and sublime than the rock itself.

The Great Gatsby – an Australian Movie?

By Laura Himmelmann

The Great Gatsby is a novel and movie adaption most of us are familiar with, hopefully. The majority of people are unaware that on paper, it could count as an Australian movie rather than American.

Looking at the cast, we are confronted with Leonardo Di Caprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. All American actors that are well known for their movies. However, if we look further, we are met with a whole list of people that have Australian origin. It is a presence that is palpable.

Baz Luhrmann, the director of the movie, is Australian and he brought in his team which consisted of fellow Australians: so does the movie count as an Australian one?

What makes a movie Australian?

The plot of The Great Gatsby follows Jay Gatsby, a millionaire who carries a mysterious aura wherever he steps foot in. His long-lasting crush Daisy, someone he knows, is out of reach. We view the story from Nick Carraway’s POV, years after everything we are about to witness, happened. The message of the movie is to warn of the dangers of the American dream and the death grip materialism has on people. It also depicts the irresponsible lifestyle of the rich, especially with the focus on parties and alcohol.

While it takes place in the fictional town West Egg, imitating New York City, the director moved the filming process to Sydney. In other words, the movie was filmed in Australia but depicts the America of the 1920’s. Throughout the years there have been various novel and movie adaptions that are associated with different countries. Such as The Piano, set in New Zealand, written, and directed by a New Zealand team but produced by an Australian (DailyTelegraph). Therefore, it is accepted as an Australian movie by award associations. For The Great Gatsby, we have a hugely known American novella as source material, but an Australian team in the background. So, we must consider it as a possibility of representation.

What is meant with that?

The source material should not limit the creative adaption but rather encourage various people to take over and add their nuances. The Great Gatsby is a prime example of Australian influence and the success it may carry. It creates differences to the original, those that may change the setting, acting and developing of a plot, but it does not need to be connected to negativity. Furthermore, it opens the door for representation in Hollywood, for recognition and acceptance apart from the usual norm.

So, yes, The Great Gatsby needs to be seen as an Australian movie, for that it not only consists of mostly Australian cast and crew but it also offers a difference to usual Hollywood blockbusters. It opened the doors of possibilities and the space to think about productions that not only consist of Americans when telling a story even one set in America. This is thanks to people like Baz Luhrmann who pour their individuality and ideas in big projects, turning them into something different, something new.


‘Great Gatsby’ and the Australian influence (

Is the Great Gatsby really an Australian film? | Daily Telegraph

Nick Cave and the Gothic

Nick Cave is an Australian singer, songwriter, poet and author who dives into the multifaceted abyss of human consciousness. In his works, and especially song lyrics, he frequently makes use of themes such as mortality, morbidity and surrealism. All of these are motives we are familiar with from the genre of Gothic. But how exactly are these themes realized in Cave’s art and can they be categorized as belonging to the subgenre of Australian Gothic?

To answer these questions let’s first take a look at some examples of Gothic themes in Cave’s songs. In the album Murder Ballads, published in 1996 by his band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, themes of horror can be found frequently. As the title suggests, almost every song includes the story of at least one and sometimes several murders. “The Curse of Millhaven”, for example, tells the story of a mad young girl comitting several murders. In “Song of Joy”, a father recounts the brutal murder of his family by a serial killer. Both songs feature detailed, very morbid descriptions of the murders. Interesting to note is that both these songs are written from the perspective of the murderer. Both depict their spiral into madness.

This theme of madness and violence developing from a place of love can be found in several other songs as well. The general feeling of many of these songs could also be described as a depiction of the ordinary and unknown in an unusual, surrealistic way. Cave presents horror and violence from the hands of ordinary people like a school girl, father or lover.

To answer the question whether Nick Cave’s art can be classified as Australian Gothic we must first take a closer look at the characteristics of this subgenre. In general, it shares some aspects with European and American Gothic but also has its own distinct features. Early examples of Australian Gothic can be dated back as far as the late 19th century but are quite obscure. The genre developed alongside colonization and is therefore marked by racist ideas. Indigenous Australian people are portrayed as uncivilized in contrast to the civilized, rational colonizer. Another feature is the perception of the landscape as hostile, dangerous and haunted.

One song which we would like to inspect closer is “Where the Wild Roses Grow”. Cave recorded this song together with fellow Australian artist Kylie Minogue in 1995. The duet narrates the story of Elisa Day and her unnamed murderer who is also her lover. At the height of their relationship, he promises to show her the place “where the wild roses grow”. This place is depicted as a beautiful, mysterious place of desire only he seems to know of. It is here at this almost otherworldly place of natural beauty where he strikes her down with a rock.

Contrary to most Australian gothic fiction, the environment here isn’t potentially harmful or even dangerous. Instead it is depicted as a beautiful escape. Nonetheless, the surroundings are abstract and surreal, almost too perfect and quickly stained by the brutal murder of Elisa Day. It appears as if Nick Cave subverts the expectations of the genre, by turning the innocent and beautiful landscape into a murder scene, instead of the land itself bearing the horrors and danger. This idea of subverting the Australian Gothic can also be found in the way evilness is depicted. There is no strange “other” who poses a threat. Instead evilness and violence can be found within the community from people you would never expect to be capable of such things. The kind of horror Cave uses is psychological, often allowing the listener to get an insight into the murderers thoughts by having the songs be written from their perspective.

Orientation in “The Arrival” – paths of the past and the future

Photo albums combine immediate proximity and boundless distance. They are tangibly close, but suggest an intangible vastness. Photo albums are timeless and yet they capture a concrete time. At the same time, they recall a past, a snapshot that awakens a memory, but are seen through the eyes of the present. A photo album is able to tell a story that depicts the past and foreshadows a future, a future that one seemingly inhabits whilst viewing the album. Photographs are silent, yet they express numerous characteristics. Although they may appear highly specific, the observer perhaps lacks the context that memory has lost, allowing only fragments to be grasped.

Figure 1

Shaun Tan, author of the graphic novel The Arrival, asserts that photo albums “inspire[es] memory and urg[e] us to fill in the silent gaps, animating them with the addition of our own storyline” (Essays – Strange Migrations – Shaun Tan). Originally planning a picture book in which an elderly migrant reflects on his past experiences, Tan discarded this idea in favour of a silent protagonist who migrates to a distant, new and distant place with fantastical attributes (Ling 46-47). Whilst the sepia tones are the main feature to allude to the nature of old photographs, the foreign land involves Tan’s own interest to “depict figures in alienating landscapes” in his illustrations (45), as well as a presumably autobiographical related curiosity. As Tan writes on his website, the alienated place where he spent his childhood gave him “a feeling of being somewhere and nowhere at the same time” (Essays – Strange Migrations – Shaun Tan).

Given the seemingly opposed yet unitary nature of a photo album’s ability to evoke a sense of a liminal place, of the old and the new, of the then and the now, of the silent and the speaking, Tan’s wordless graphic novel The Arrival illustrates a mode of photo album that both builds and defines upon a pair of directions: that of the past and that of the present/future. More precisely, The Arrival formally elucidates the two tendencies by visually placing distinct references to them. In this respect, the title page’s opening gives a visual reference (Figure 1). Standing to one side, the strange and nameless protagonist, his face covered by his hat, directs his gaze to the left and stares back. Similar to the other examples of single panels in the graphic novel, the title page, a replica of a panel reused from another page, demonstrates that the left-facing protagonist turns to face the past.

Figure 2
Figure 3

By the stranger looking behind or casting his gaze to the left, the panel implies that the past that is left behind creates a distance that is at the same time tangible, though no longer accessible. Tan connects a quick sequence here that shifts the direction to the opposite in the subsequent panels, thus making the (then) past yield to what lies ahead, what is directed to the right, what is the future. Just as in the first page, featuring a rightward-facing origami figure in the first panel (Figure 2), upon turning left the stranger encounters a crowd of strange-looking birds that resemble the origami figure (Figure 3). They jointly fly away towards the right, the future, whom the stranger later encounters again in the new land.

To this end, Tan repeatedly deploys these specific alignments of the characters. When the unknown protagonist bids farewell to his family, he tilts his head downwards, puts on his hat, as he faces the left side in the panel. After five additional panels, he bends down again, only this time to receive the suitcase that the daughter hands him. Unlike before, the protagonist is now oriented to the right. With the view into the future, the suitcase stresses the journey into the distant and foreign as a token of movement (Figure 4).

Figure 4

Furthermore, the visual announcements of the various flashbacks in Arrival, which portray the experiences of migration of various characters as they meet the protagonist in the new land, illustrate a glimpse into the past. An example of this is the character exchanging views with the protagonist and looking to the left. As with the previous examples, the panel concentrates only on the character, then zooms in closer with each subsequent panel. Direction of viewing plays an important role in Tan’s Arrival, placing the past and the future in immediate proximity. Similar to a photo album, the old is seemingly situated not that far back, but the new lays ahead as well – in Tan’s Arrival, the fantastically new. According to Golnar Nabizadeh, these fantastic aspects sustain “hope for the future […] through surreality that resides within the recognisable past […]” (Nabizadeh 204).

Figure 5

Accordingly, the last page of the graphic novel accentuates the direction of hope. In the one-page panel, the unnamed proagonist’s daughter, who has arrived in the new land, meets a rather perplexed looking migrant. With a suitcase on the ground and a map in her hand, the migrant gets assistance from the daughter on finding her way. Like the magical being accompanying them, the two look to the right while the daughter points her finger in that very direction – towards the future for the arrived migrant (Figure 5).

Works Cited

Ling, Chuan-Yao. “A Conversation with Illustrator Shaun Tan.” World Literature Today 82.5 (2008): 44-47
Tan, Shaun. “Strange Migrations.” n.d.,
Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Melbourne. Lothian, 2006.
Nabizadeh, Golnar. Departure and arrival: loss and mourning in literary migrant narratives. 2011. University of Western Australia, PhD dissertation.

Migration and Identity in Persepolis

The graphic novel “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi presents the theme of migration and identity in a funny yet thought-provoking manner. I had read the novel a long time ago, but I decided to give it another read after I left my own country, in pursuit of a better education, and a better life. I wasn’t surprised when I could relate more to Marjane and her experience as a foreigner in Austria, far away from home and everything she had found comfort in. The crisis of searching for one’s own identity and roots in an unknown land is portrayed light-heartedly, but those panels weigh more than what meets the eye.  

The novel follows the life of a young girl named Marjane as she navigates her way through a changing world, and the impact that migration has on her sense of self. The story begins with Marjane growing up in Tehran, Iran, during the 1970s, a time of relative stability and prosperity. However, as the political situation in Iran becomes more and more volatile, Marjane’s parents decide to send her to Austria to attend school. This decision represents a major turning point in Marjane’s life, as she is forced to confront the challenges of living in a foreign country and adapting to a new culture.

Marjane struggles to find a sense of belonging in Austria, as she feels alienated from both her Iranian heritage and her new Austrian surroundings. She faces racism and discrimination from her classmates, who view her as an outsider. We see how she was treated as an outsider and exploited even by people who she thought cared for her. Later, a panel shows her recalling how she was called a “dirty foreigner” by an old man in the metro. Marjane’s parents, on the other hand, try to maintain her connection to her Iranian roots by sending her care packages filled with traditional foods and clothing. This leads to a sense of confusion and dislocation for Marjane, as she struggles to reconcile her Iranian identity with her experiences in Austria.

As the story progresses, Marjane returns to Iran after the fall of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. She is initially excited to be back in her home country, as she says “…and so much for my individual and social liberties… I needed so badly to go home”, but soon realises that Iran has changed in ways that she did not expect. The strict dress codes, the suppression of women’s rights, and the violence of the Iranian regime all contribute to Marjane’s growing disillusionment with her homeland. She becomes increasingly critical of the government and its policies, and begins to see herself as a rebel and a non-conformist.

Throughout “Persepolis,” Marjane’s experiences of migration and displacement shape her sense of self and her understanding of the world around her. Her story highlights the complex ways in which identity is constructed and negotiated in the context of migration. As Marjane moves between different cultures and contexts, she is forced to confront the limitations and possibilities of her own identity, and to negotiate the tensions and contradictions that arise from her experiences of migration and displacement.

 Marjane’s story highlights the challenges and opportunities that arise from migration, and the ways in which it can shape an individual’s sense of self and understanding of the world. By exploring these themes through the lens of a young girl’s experiences, Satrapi offers a unique perspective on the complexities of migration and identity, and the ways in which they intersect and shape one another.

A Review? Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead & Apocalypse

It seems like everybody is in their villain era lately. Horror cinema has become mainstream to the extent that wider audiences are becoming more aware of the hidden cypher of morals and taboos lying beneath the human and not-so-human monsters on the silver screen. And for a lifelong and passionate fan of everything scary (as I am), this is the true nightmare. Because making horror suitable for bigger audiences came at the cost of sacrificing much of the boldness of the genre.

Looking for a fun zombie movie to watch with my mum (the biggest The Walking Dead fan I know) I came across the Wyrmwood series, consisting of Road of the Dead (2014) and Apocalypse (2022). Both of which are movies produced and directed by brothers Tristian and Kiah Roache-Turner with a budget of only about 160,000 Dollars each (TWD has a budget of 3.4 million per episode). And yet, this low budget franchise has given me all I wanted from a zombie movie, and so much more.

I want to address both movies back-to-back, not only because their refreshing take on zombie movies made me binge-watch them in one sitting, but also because they are exactly like consecutive movies should be: siblings, not twins.

I have honestly grown tired of the endless conversations about morality and humanity. Whole episodes of The Walking Dead without a single dead person walking in sight. Just people talking about the evil deeds of their fellow survivors and unsolvable battles being fought out in eternal discussions.  I just want to see guts splattering on the screen, is this too much to ask for?

Enter Wyrmwood, the very Australian lovechild of Mad Max and Day of the Dead.

Director Kiah Roache-Turner appeals to his audience’s media literacy: most of us know zombies better than our own grandma. “Everybody knows what the set up is, let’s just cut to the chase. There’s zombies everywhere, you know what I mean? It’s some kind of vague, Biblical metaphor, meteors have landed, let’s put the leathers on and get a double-barrel shotgun out, and it just cuts straight to the chase […].” (Kiah Roache-Turner on Hence, there is not much of a plot to address here. The brothers have reduced the zombie movie formula to the bare minimum. First, it is about people trying to survive in the apocalypse, and then, madness ensues.

It is a zombie movie set in “a world that is cool – it’s a zombie apocalyptic wasteland where the zombies can attach to vehicles and generators as a power source, and you’ve got somebody who has developed the power to control zombies like puppets […].” (Kiah Roache-Turner on Gamerant) Both of these ideas just blew my mind. Not because they are symbolically deep or anything. They are just fun concepts for a movie and look amazing in action sequences.

Their video game-like approach is not only apparent in their ideas, but the camerawork also borrows from this aesthetic. It is incredibly fast, chaotic, with interesting angles and quick shots. Certain scenes have a very game-like boss-fight style to them. (

Especially the visuals and action sequences of the sequel Apocalypse are amazing. The Wyrmwood movies rely on practical effects, rather than special effects. The makeup of the zombies does look quite good (despite the contact-lenses being a bit too obviously fake at times), and the splatter action is amusing. There is no doubt that a low budget movie with practical effects will age better with time than a million-dollar series like She-Hulk, clearly overdoing it with special effects.

Also, it is a very Australian movie, proudly sporting the influence of Mad Max, with heavily modded cars and cool apocalyptic fashion. (Roach-Turner on From the usage of cricket players as weapons, to the song Red Right Hand by Nick Cave being used in the opening sequence of Apocalypse. Plenty of shots of the characteristic flora of the outback, warm colours and lonely roads. For once, we get the feeling of a country that is not plagued by overpopulation (in contrast to the vast hordes of many US cantered zombie franchises), there are no big crowds of zombies surrounding the protagonists. In fact, they eventually even struggle to locate one to use as fuel. Especially the second movie, filmed with only a few sets and locations, manages to create a unique feeling of isolation, despite being action packed to the brim.

The dialogue in Wyrmwood is cut down to a minimum as well. It gets the story across, and characterizes the protagonists: nothing more, nothing less.

The zombie genre is a genre that is generally quite good at depicting a diverse cast of characters, and it is something that puts me in a good mood. Wyrmwood is no exception to this rule, as it features a cast consisting of men and women, white people and people of colour, featuring three main characters who are indigenous. But honestly, the women of the franchise steal the show.  My personal favourite is zombie-controlling Brooke (Bianca Bradley), who goes from slightly shy, but still tough in the first movie, to an animalistic, crazed-out zombie hybrid in the sequel. And it is honestly delightful to watch her telepathically make zombies use guns and grenades. Honestly badass, and, like everything in these movies, just plain fun to look at.

Despite its fast pace and straight-up out there characters, Wyrmwood somehow manages not to become ridiculous or overly goofy. There are serious moments and a solid storyline, likeable characters, and vile antagonists. And the worldbuilding is refreshingly unique and consistent.

So, in conclusion, this is as much as a review, as it is a criticism of modern horror cinema. Stop telling me about the depravity of humankind. Show it to me. I want to see the bloody roots of it. Brains and all.


If you want to give your own brain some slack and relax with some fast-paced, bloody action, at the time of this blog’s writing, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is currently available for as little as 0,99 Euro on Amazong VoD, and Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is free on Amazon Prime.


Raven Brunner. “Kiah Roache-Turner Talks Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, Chatting With Fans, And A Potential Third Movie”

Skyjoker. Interview: ‘Wyrmwood Apocalypse’ Director Kiah Roache-Turner

Steve Newall. Interview: ‘Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead’ director Kiah Roache-Turner.

Moviefreak. “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” – Interview with Director Kiah Roache-Turner.

The Magic Fish; A Unique Perspective

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen is not a common immigration story. In most of the immigration novels I have read so far, immigration was looked at through the lens of first generation immigrants and we saw their stories as they happened, or as a retelling of some sort, but The Magic Fish had a unique protagonist; A second generation son of a Vietnamese refugee family who also happened to be queer.

Before I get into the details about the graphic novel, I’d like to take a quick look at the artist. Trung Le Nguyen, also known as Trungles, is a Vietnamese-American cartoonist, artist and writer who is best known for his graphic novel The Magic Fish, which was published by Random House Graphic in 2020. Trung was born in a Vietnamese refugee camp in the Philippines and moved to the United States when he was two years old. Also, It was very interesting to learn that Trung is gay and non-binary, and the story of The Magic Fish was heavily inspired by his own upbringing and real life.

Now on to the comic itself; The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen is a graphic novel about a young boy named Tiến, the second generation son of Vietnamese refugee parents. Tiến’s dilemma is that he’s a closeted gay young man, who’s in love with his friend, and seems to be having issues coming out to his family because he can’t find the right words for it in Vietnamese to talk about his sexuality with his family. From the very beginning of the novel, we see that there is a language barrier between him and his mother, and in order for his mother to practice her English, she suggests that Tiến reads them a fairytale book that they’ve gotten from the library.

Through the reading of this fairytale, we’re introduced to a lot more than just the plot of the fantasy book. The fairytale story itself is a work of fiction that seems to be a mix of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid. Aside from that, we also get to learn about Helen’s (Tiến’s mom) background and how she married Tiến’s dad and left Vietnam together. The fairytale is very unique because it brings Tiến and Helen together in the way that it seems to work like a bridge between the two, trumping their language barrier and other gaps. Through reading the book, Helen seems to be reliving some of her memories from her life when she was young, and her marriage to her husband and how they left their homeland, and for Tiến, too, he seems to be daydreaming about and imagining his in-real crush to be the prince from the fairytale.

When asked by The Hollywood Reporter about the reason why he took the fairytale approach in his storytelling, Trung explained:

“I think fairy tales are such a great touchstone for how to find common experiences among people who have grown up in totally different places, because they’re very formal and they’re oftentimes very personal and told in very intimate settings. They kind of are these really nice blank slates to bring our differences to the fore, and also navigate how those differences can be tied together.”

The interviewer then asked a follow-up question concerning the three narratives and which one was easier for Trung to connect to and write about, and what Trung said in response was something that I found quite interesting, and a point of view that I’d never considered before.

“I think the last story, the one that’s based on The Little Mermaid, was something that I was really comfortable with. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about Hans Christian Andersen and the notion that Hans Christian Andersen wrote the story from a place of unrequited longing and clear love that never really comes to fruition was such a fascination for me for such a long time. And then, explaining to my family and my parents why that story was such a fascinating thing for me, and having them explain back that this is an immigrant story, she gives up something, she gave up her tongue, her language, to live someplace new so that she could be with someone that she loved. That’s an immigrant story. I loved that so much.”

The fairytale itself aside, one other thing that I found to be quite interesting was the queer elements of The Magic Fish. Firstly, we have a (mostly) closeted young protagonist who’s struggling with the topic of coming out to his parents due to a language barrier and also probably cultural gaps that exist between him as a young boy raised in the United States and his Vietnamese refugee parents; a situation that is definitely very relatable to other queer children of refugee and immigrant families. Other than that, there was a part in the fairytale where the prince refers to Alera using they/them pronouns, and as a non-binary person myself and considering how rare it is for non-binary people to appear in most works of fiction, it was very delightful to have that small bit of representation and it definitely caught my attention.

The Magic Fish is a very special and extremely stunning novel. The way the fairytale somewhat reflects the characters’ real lives is extremely unique and beautifully done, making it easily accessible to all readers due to its retelling of the popular classics that we’re all familiar with. It reveals so much about the characters with so few words and tells us about Tiến’s personal struggles, Helen’s history and her escape from post-war Vietnam, and so much more, and ties it all together using fairytales. All in all, a very good introduction to Trung’s brilliant works, immigration novels, and a worthwhile read.

H2O: Just Add Water and the Aboriginal Mermaid Myth

by anonymous

The show H20: Just Add Water is a children’s show about three teenage girls Emma, Cleo and Rikki (And later, Emma is replaced by Bella) who become mermaids and grow tails as soon as they touch water. The first episode shows their encounter and how they end up taking a boat out for a spin. The boat runs out of fuel and they decide to paddle to the nearest land, Mako Island, where all three of them fall into a crater of a dormant volcano. Their only way out is to dive through the reef. While the girls are in the water, the moon shines over the volcano and the water around them begins to bubble. The next day, after making it out of the crater, the girls grow tails and develop superpowers over water.

Already in the first episode, many Australian characteristics, such as the setting of the series, can be seen. Set on the Gold Coast, the series features a very summery beach and surf aesthetic that non-natives often associate with Australia. Another very Australian feature is the production, including the actors and their distinctive accents. All of this supports the authenticity of the show. But these are not the only aspects. The show also shows a connection to the mermaid myth, also known as the Yawkyawk, of the Aboriginal people.  

The Yawkyawk is a female creature originating from the mythology of Aboriginal people from the northern territories of Australia. Yawkyawk translates to “young girl with a fish tail” and resembles mermaids with seaweed for hair. They are described as freshwater creatures that lived in lakes and rivers. In addition, the Yawkyawk were able to shapeshift into snakes, crocodiles, swordfish, or other animals, and they could manipulate the weather when they were angry. Thus, they played a major role in the indigenous culture and language. Aboriginal paintings depicting the Yawkyawk creatures still hang in Australia’s national museums.

Knowing this myth, one can assume that the show H20: Just Add Water was inspired by it. The main similarities that stand out are the fishtails, obviously, but especially the supernatural powers that the girls develop in the series. Each of them develops a different power, such as freezing, boiling, and moving water. Often these powers are used when they get angry or try to help their friends. Later in the series, weather control also is revealed as a mermaid power. The existence of the myth is also mentioned in the series, when they try to find out more about the origin of the mermaids.

However, there are also many differences between the depiction of the mermaids in the show and in the myth. The Yawkyawk are said to live in the water, while the girls in the series only grow tails when they touch the water. Their superpowers are also different from those of the Yawkyawk in most cases. These differences can be attributed to the fact that it is a children´s show. The myth of the mermaid is found in many different cultures, such as Native Americans, ancient Greeks, Asians, etc., and they are usually associated with negative expectations. In some cultures, the creatures are described as possessors, sirens, or unlucky omens that bring disaster or attract and kill sailors. It is to be expected that these characteristics are not appropriate for a show aimed at a young audience. In summary, despite the differences, the show is a good example of typical Australian culture and emphasizes the reference to Aboriginal mythology. Thus, it raises awareness and brings us closer to the indigenous culture.

The Infinite Man – Movie Review

by Eva Musat

The Infinite Man is a 2014 Australian science-fiction film directed by Hugh Sullivan that is about Dean, a scientist, who wishes to relive a special weekend he had with his girlfriend Lana. When Lana’s ex-boyfriend Terry interrupts them, Dean tries to make things right by traveling back in time. The film takes place in only one location, the hotel where said special weekend took place, and only has three characters.

The limited setting, few characters, and time travel plot are the things that drew me to this movie in the first place. It is quite similar to the movie Coherence (2013), which I think is one of the most innovative thrillers I´ve seen recently. However, The Infinite Man develops more into the genres of romance and comedy, whereas Coherence belongs to the surreal and thriller genres.

I had high hopes for this movie, but I ended up being a little bit disappointed and by the end, confused.  This doesn´t mean it was bad, I just didn´t like it as much as I expected it to. The first part of the movie intrigued me, but started to feel a bit static; in the middle and toward the end of the movie the cleverly written dialogue helped turn the movie around.

The very first thing we see is Dean, while his inner monologue is heard, where he talks about loving his girlfriend and understanding her neurochemically, in a way that nobody else can. He believes he is the only one that can make her happy because, having studied her from the perspective of a scientist, he knows exactly how. This sets an interesting tone for the movie and I expected that we delve into the scientific details behind Dean´s knowledge of Lana, but that never happened.

The overall plot was well structured. It had very few plot holes, which was quite surprising, but it lacked the clarity needed to understand the movie. I think that maybe a small difference in the characters´ appearance for each time travel loop would have helped. I understand that in order to relive the weekend Dean wants every character to wear the same clothing each time; after all, if the perfect weekend happened once, why shouldn´t it work again, if the same conditions and circumstances are met? But a small change in hair color, hairstyle, or facial hair would have helped the viewer a lot.

If one wants an interesting plot and an exploration of time travel, the movie falls slightly short, as it is easy to get confused with the timeline. This confusion can be solved by some research, which led me to a website that explains the different time travel plots in detail and even includes a chart.[1]

While the plot is lacking, if anybody needs inspiration for unique directing, cinematography and editing, this is by all means the movie to watch.

The technical aspects of the movie, are just beautiful. The colors have a specific yellow and orange vintage look about them and the notable choice of music both make for a unique viewing experience. Especially eye-catching is the way the camera follows our characters, more specifically the way it follows the places Dean points to when he shows Lana where they were last year. Additionally, the film editing is very striking, in the way it cuts to different paintings and even the list Dean made for the perfect weekend, as are the different transitions used in the film.

Overall the movie is fun to experience, but difficult to grasp without looking at some sort of explanation. Still, it can be enjoyable and even interesting to watch, if you like unique technical aspects such as camera work and film editing.

[1] Swaminathan, B. (Barry). (2019, October 17). The Infinite Man Explained (2014 Australian Film). This Is Barry.

“Melbourne Calling”

by Mara Geißen

For my last blog post I have again chosen a short story to write about. The short story, “Melbourne Calling” by Silvia Brown, doesn’t seem to have much to do with horror at first. However, monsters are mentioned from the beginning, which Colin apparently sees. The monsters he mentions, however, seem to come from his subconscious and are therefore less real. “I closed my eyes and counted to three like the psych had suggested and the vision went away, leaving a path of slime over my shoes” (140).

The story seems like a normal teenage – love story with the difference being that this is not a traditional, heteronormative couple, but a homosexual one. The two are portrayed in a very cute way. They seem to have really searched for and found each other. Due to the depiction of their relationship, as a reader one feels wrapped in a warm and cozy blanket. It recalls one´s first love and the strong emotions and sensations felt at that intense time. Typical and comprehensible is also that Collin and Josh have their own song “London Calling”, which they even personalise for themselves into “Melbourne Calling” (142). The title of the story already indicates that this song will be significant for the plot.

Out of nowhere, the boys are attacked by an old man and Josh is killed in the attack. “A blast went off as the headphones snapped onto his ears. Flesh exploded. Glass and wood shattered. [… I] saw the broken window […], and what was left of Josh, the pointy end of a shotgun still levelled at where his head had been” (144 – 145). As a reader, you are torn from the cozy blanket and thrown into a pool of freezing water. You might expect a supernatural monster, like the one in Colin’s wardrobe, but no. The monster described here is a man who wants to kill, or kills two boys. “The old man behind the gun looked me in the eye, seemingly indifferent to the loss of life and property” (45). Definitely such people can be called monsters. Monsters are not only slimy creatures with tentacles, but also people without hearts and empathy. However, the old man is in Colin’s eyes not only a human monster but also a fantastic one. “The old man´s partly hidden features became more obvious as he moved into the light of the store window. His human face fell into a mass of feelers from the lips down, minuscule tentacles lurking in all directions” (145). As a reader, one is not quite sure if this monster is real or if just Colin’s mind portraying this man as a monster.

The story only becomes clearly fantastic at the end, when the song “London Calling” is heard again by Colin. The song seems to have created such a strong connection between him and Josh that he seems to hear his voice calling his name (146). Colin follows the voice in his mind and thereby loses himself in “limbo” (146), where he finds Josh. Now they can sing together again,  “from the top of [their] lungs” (146). The story ends on a sad note, since both boys are dead. Colin seems to have died too, as he is said to fall “into the abyss” (146). Nevertheless, one also feels a positive or lightening feeling, knowing that at the very least Josh and Colin are together.