aka Stones of Death
Director – James Bogle, Screenplay – Ian Coughlan, Producers – Charles Hannah & David Hannay, Photography – Stephen F. Windon, Music – Peter Westheimer, Makeup Effects – Deryck De Niese. Production Company – David Hannay Productions/Medusa Communications.
Zoe Carides (Gail Sorenson), Tom Jennins (Matt Taylor), Eric Oldfield (Alex Sorenson), Fiona Gauntlett (Fizz Dryden), Natalie McCurry (Tracy Hocking), Steve Doff (Billinudgel), Deborah Kennedy (Mrs Millhouse), Kerry McKay (Shane), Bruce Hughes (Tony Pirrello), Sean Scully (Mr Fitzgerald)
Teenager Tracy Hocking has a dream of an Aboriginal ritual and wakes up to find a strange stone beside her bed. Her teacher identifies it as an Aborigine kadaicha stone, used by medicine men to place a death curse on a recipient. That evening, Tracy is killed as she walks home from a friend’s place. Her friend Gail Sorenson becomes concerned as others in their group of friends have identical dreams and wake up with kadaicha stones and are then killed shortly after. Gail next receives a stone and sets out to try to find a means of stopping the ritual. As she uncovers, her father, a real estate developer, built the homes of the suburb on top of an Aborigine burial ground without properly excavating the area first. Now the spirits of murdered Aborigines are rising up to take revenge for their slaughter by white men over a century earlier.
James Bogle is an Australian director who should be given the opportunity to make more films. Kadaicha was his debut film and he subsequently continued on in the horror genre with the psycho flatmate black comedy Mad Bomber in Love (1992) and the fascinatingly ambiguous Outback horror In the Winter Dark (1999), followed by the non-genre drama Closed for Winter (2009) and assorted tv work. It should be said that Bogle has disowned Kadaicha as a not terribly good film, saying he was little more than a hired gun.
The film falls into the great era of Ozploitation cinema and was originally made for cinematic release but ended up being dumped to video instead. The script comes from Ian Coughlan who directed one other horror film of the Ozploitation cycle with the occult drama Alison’s Birthday (1979).
The filmmakers have clearly set out to emulate the American horror models of the day. The focus is on teenagers being killed – the justification for this is that the white men killed off several Aborigine teenagers in the previous century and now teens living on the site in the present day are being claimed in retribution. In the idea of the Aboriginal medicine man haunting the teens in their dreams, you can see that the producers were clearly trying to imitate the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and sequels, which were the biggest thing around in horror at the time Kadaicha was made. The other film that holds an influence is Poltergeist (1982) from which this has lifted wholesale the idea of the haunting of a new housing development that has been built on a native burial ground.
This is given an Australian focus by the importation of ideas from the mythology of the Abrigines. The other film of influence here is Peter Weir’s fascinatingly mystical The Last Wave (1977) from which Kadaicha has clearly taken the theme of white men being haunted by Aboriginal magic and the underlying sense of colonial guilt that runs through both. The premise of Aborigine mythology, cursed artifacts and vengeance for the past was also used in The Dreaming (1988) made the same year. Kadaicha is eminently forgettable. Despite the novel idea of combining Aborigine mysticism with an Elm Street-type film, little attempt is made to explore Aborigine culture and beliefs.
James Bogle’s handling is routine and uninspired. In particular, one scene where the group of teens go swimming at the river and something brushes against Fiona Gauntlett’s feet and she puzzles over the fact the others are some way away before she is dragged under fails to achieve any atmosphere due to shoddy and amateurish camerawork.