It’s an eerie feeling watching an Australian horror film situated in the wilderness where three biologists attempt to escape an evil that’s hunting them with the current bushfires in the country decimating unprecedented amounts of animal populations. With the real-life horror happening in the country, it was hard to detach myself from reality and settle into the Shudder Original The Marshes – at least in the beginning.
Written and directed by Roger Scott, The Marshes takes place deep in a remote marshland and focuses on three young biologists as they conduct research. Dr. Pria Anan (Dafna Kronental) isn’t just a researcher embarking on her studies out of circumstance, instead, she’s fighting to save her beloved marshland ecosystem that is close to extinction. But this quest to save them rest on this last trip into the field. Accompanied by her equal parts academic rival and friend Ben (Mathew Cooper) and their young assistant Will (Sam Delich), Pria is certain she has control of the world around her.
As Pria romances a colleague and faces threats from hunters in the area, she stays focused on her goal. However, her fears begin to overwhelm her tensions, and control becomes elusive. Told through the darkness, close-ups of Pria’s face, and clips of viruses and other cellular specimens, we watch a descent into fear and confusion as she’s forced to prioritize her survival over her science.
Told like a ghost story, The Marshes slowly develops into a slasher with grit and confusion. As the trio runs from a murderous force, the world around them shifts and the marshland becomes a maze, trapping them and pushing them into corners that make them confront the gory reality of getting caught. As much as we explore the land and the almost mythical slasher stalking them, we’re also exploring Pria’s mind. The nature of the marshland and the way the fear builds on itself, slowly and then quickly, means that you have to pay close attention. Perceptions aren’t always reality and in all honesty, I’m going to need to jump into the film again to fully grasp it.
That being said, my husband is a botanist. It may not sound relevant but I’ve accompanied him on several trips to unincorporated land searching a landscape with no service, no people, and only each other. It’s something you don’t think about while you’re in the wild, at least not in the light. During the day I took in the scenery, climbed over rocks, and then when night would hit, the temperature would drop the sounds in the trees would grow and the once beautiful area took on a sinister tone. Scott nails this in The Marshes.
As much as the film does well as crafting its antagonist in both mystery and brutality, and to an extent, its main characters, the most beautifully done character in The Marshes is the marshland itself. If you’re a fan of Australian horror or film in general, then you know that in media, the images of the country’s landscape is nearly the same in every film. The look of Wolf Creek, The Loved Ones, and Cargo are all similar. Vast and orange, Scott shows a piece of Australia we don’t usually encounter in the lush greenery knee-deep water of The Marshes.
While some of the story elements cannibalize each other, the romance doesn’t serve too much purpose (though to be honest, the scenes of intimacy are excellently directed in near dark) and the third acts adds confusion, this is a great start to horror on Shudder in 2020. I’m a sucker for Australian horror and The Marshes hits just the spot.
The Marshes is streaming exclusively on Shudder.
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While some of the story elements cannibalize each other, the romance doesn’t serve too much purpose (though to be honest, the scenes of intimacy are excellently directed in near dark) and the third acts adds confusion…I’m a sucker for Australian horror and The Marshes hits just the spot.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.