It is well established that everything from the insects to the weather in Australia is trying to kill you. Australian horror-comedy Two Heads Creek decides to add the locals of its titular town to the list of deadly perils facing Brits down under. Twins Norman (Jordan Waller, who also wrote the film) and Anna (Kathryn Wilder) are searching for their biological mother, who they only just found out exists, in the rural town of Two Heads Creek. Unfortunately, the town is populated by superstitious, cannibalistic residents.
As well as having a relatively simple plot – ‘estranged adult siblings fly to Australia to find their long lost mum, but there are cannibals trying to eat them and other foreigners’ – Two Heads Creek manages to breeze though its story, for the most part, at breakneck speed. Anna and Norman have already held their supposed mother’s funeral, found out she is not their real mum, flown to Australia, and are a bit suspicious of the creepy town within fifteen minutes of the film starting. The amount of violence and gags they manage to squeeze into the third act is remarkable and is done at an equally breakneck pace.
This is no bad thing, however, especially since despite this quick progress, most of the key characters are suitably well developed. Unfortunately, the rate of progress is not consistent throughout. The film goes from a full sprint to a Romero stagger very quickly in places, and that stagger goes on just a little bit too long. It is as if the film was built around fun set pieces, but not enough thought was put into how the characters will move between them.
Two Heads Creek undoubtedly leans more towards the comedy in horror-comedy. While this can sometimes disappoint fans of both genres, it is not an issue here because it is, simply put, a damn fine comedy. The script is packed full of razor-sharp jokes and great back-and-forths between characters, with equally strong comedic performances from the film’s key players. From the foppish, almost Hugh Grant-inspired straight man performance of Waller’s Norman, to the over-the-top, shrill, karaoke-infused theatrics of Helen Dallimore’s Apple, almost the entire cast gets their moment to shine.
The comedy of Two Heads Creek is very firmly its own style, borrowing elements from various sources and melding it into its own, distinctly Australian, voice. With the fast edits of mundane actions you would expect from Edgar Wright, the off-beat, almost surreal approach and delivery of Wet Hot American Summer, and the Kath & Kim-style lambasting of Australia’s small-town mentality, Two Heads Creek’s comedy voice is refreshingly off-beat. Everything in it is a lot less predictable than your typical horror-comedy, and it’s a definite crowd-pleaser if you are into your absurdism or surrealist left turns. Perhaps its most obvious influence is the early work of Peter Jackson, right down to the over-the-top group fight scenes, as well as various other Easter eggs for horror fans.
None of this is to say that Two Heads Creek skimps on the horror. There are plenty of guts and disembodied limbs on the barbecue – literally, in several instances. Through Jesse O’Brien’s expert direction, the horror is cleverly used to punctuate and complement the comedy, rather than work against it. Instead of trying to be a horror film and a comedy film, and failing at both, Two Heads Creek achieves the rare feat of being a good comedy film that just happens to feature splatter kills. This is largely helped by the excellent cinematography on display. Two Heads Creek might be a ridiculous film, but it is shot with the same lust for fear as other Australian thrillers like Wolf Creek.
Two Heads Down is ultimately a film about racism, privilege and the absurdism of the small-town mentality. After all, it is a movie where the main setting is a town in rural Australia whose inhabitants eat their immigrant population (think Delicatessen meets The League of Gentlemen). Because of the directness of the comedy, a lot of the comments made by characters can feel a bit uncomfortable, perhaps because they are caricatures we all recognise too well.
Even before the film reaches Australia, we are shown the everyday racism that Norman faces as the owner of a Polish butcher in England, even though his character is absurdly posh. The film aims to show an audience the absurdity of racism by over-exaggerating its characters until they are almost awkward to watch. For the most part it works, but because of how off-beat a lot of the gags can be, some of them get lost in the moment and feel a bit too on-the-nose, or even patronising. Equally, some characters are lost in the mix, or just feel too out of place even amongst the chaos. The German villain Hans is a great example of this – he comes across as more like a rejected Monty Python character than a particularly well-rounded antagonist – although even these characters get the odd stand-out moment. However, you can’t deny it’s admirable when a film that features a boomerang made from an embalmed penis and barbed wire still manages to tackle serious societal issues on the side.
Two Heads Creek is worth checking out, especially as it is now available on VOD. It is already a great piece of comedy filmmaking and is one of the best comedy offerings to come out of Australia for quite a few years. On top of this, it is a loving homage to all things horror, with enough Easter eggs, sight gags, and gore to satisfy any genre fan.