Carnifex (2022) poster

Carnifex (2022)


Australia. 2022.


Director – Sean Lahiff, Screenplay – Shanti Gudgeon, Producers – Gena Helen Ashwell & Helen Leake, Photography – Kieran Fowler, Music – Michael Darren, Visual Effects/Animation – Convergen (Supervisor – Carlo Andreacchino), Visual Effects – Vishus Productions, Prosthetics – Larry Van Duynhoven, Production Design/Carnifex Design – Jonah Booth-Remmers. Production Company – Dancing Road Productions/South Australian Film Corporation/Adelaide Film Festival.


Alexandra Park (Bailey), Sisi Stringer (Grace), Harry Greenwood (Ben), Darren Gilshenan (Ranger Matt), Brendon Rock (Gary)


Bailey sets out to make a documentary about the animals that are endangered and displaced by the Australian bushfires. She joins Grace and Ben, two wildlife volunteers who are part of a project monitoring the animals. As they spend the night in the wild, they come under attack by what Ben calls a carnifex, a previously unknown species that is vicious and feral.

Carnifex was a feature-length directorial debut for Sean Lahiff who had previously worked as an editor on a number of Australian films, including Cargo (2017), I Am Mother (2019) and 2067 (2020), as well as several of Greg McLean’s films, among others.

Carnifex is a Monster Movie, although there is the feel that it is trying to elevate itself to more than that – it takes on the huge Australian environmental disaster of the bushfires that have consumed millions of hectares of forest in recent years. Moreover, it has been funded by the Adelaide Film Festival. This leaves it as a monster movie that is overshadowed by a sense of social relevance, even if the only real point it has to say is that sometimes new species are displaced by the bushfires.

Harry Greenwood, Alexandra Park and Sisi Stringer in Carnifex (2022)
(l to r) Harry Greenwood, Alexandra Park and Sisi Stringer – filmmakers in the Outback

The film spends more than half its running time before unleashing its monster proper. In the early sections, we get a couple of scenes where a hunter (Brendon Rock) and then a park ranger (Darren Gilshenan) are attacked, although the agency doing so is kept in the shadows. In between these scenes, the film spends quite a bit of time introducing us to the wildlife of the area where it almost feels as though it is acting as a nature documentary for international audiences. There is a reasonable degree of character interplay, even if the performances are nothing standout, along with setting up the idea of the carnifex (where the filmmakers are seemingly unaware that Carnifex is also the name of US deathcore band).

When Carnifex does bring its monster out of the shadows, Sean Lahiff generates some suspense. However, after long build-up, careful attention to the wildlife of the area and introducing the idea of its monster, these sections are unremarkable. They are the sort of scenes that take place in a regular monster movie with nothing distinctive, different or standout about any of them. The survivors escape the menace after a fight and that is about that. Which is a shame as I thought that maybe we might have been in for something that aimed for the heights of the Australian classic Razorback (1984).

Trailer here

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