GORE IN THE STORE
THE FLOOD ****
Directed by Victoria Wharfe McIntyre.
Starring Alexis Lane, Shaka Cook, Dean Kyrwood.
Historical drama, Australia, 117 minutes, certificate 18.
Released in the UK on DVD and On Digital November.
Any new film tackling the grim subject matter of Australia’s racist past towards its indigenous population has a lot to compare and contrast with. Whether it is Fred Shepisi’s THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH from 1978 or Jennifer Kent’s more recent and harrowing THE NIGHTINGALE, Australian cinema has never felt the need to shy away from the sins of its past. THE FLOOD, written and directed by Victoria Wharfe McIntyre attempts to carry on in this tradition but the results end up as a serious misfire on every level.
Set in the aftermath of World War II, THE FLOOD tells the story of the Australian governments shocking backtrack of the promises that were made to the aboriginal people who fought for their country in regard to their land. When her own ancestral home is taken away from her Jarah is also forced into sickening servitude for the Mackay family who have taken up residence on her land. When her husband Waru returns from fighting abroad, he also comes face to face with the same racism and intolerance from the locals who then go on to commit several shocking acts of violence against his family. Fighting back, they flee into the vast country where the Mackay clan take up arms and give pursuit in revenge of what they see is rightfully theirs.
What should be a simple and familiar narrative becomes needlessly complicated in McIntyre’s clueless hands. Unfolding on screen over a padded out and repetitive two hours is an often-bizarre mishmash of historical drama and grind house rape revenge tropes that at times is also filmed like a pretentious perfume advert. Among the multiple scenes of sexual assault and racist violence we are treated to tonally deaf comedic interludes presented in a music video style that stick out like a sore thumb among the various shots of Jarah floating through the woods in a billowing white dress. Why this happens is a mystery that is never explained. At all. These pretentious and wrong-headed vignettes sit uneasily among poorly executed action scenes. How do you make a gunfight involving over a dozen gun slingers in a photogenic environment boring and lifeless? Let THE FLOOD show you how in excruciating detail.
The amateur, pretentious film student vibe permeates every single scene here. Even through the end credits which seem to delight in punishing the viewer that they have not suffered enough yet. The under-written script serves as no more than a flimsy baseline for the struggling actors to inject any life or honesty into proceedings here. It aims for a profundity with the redemption of one villain, attempting to aim for a reconciliation subtext that it manages to also miss by miles. That it wants to achieve this while also aiming for b-movie thrills just highlights THE FLOOD’S many shortcomings. McIntyre may have been aiming to make a film more harrowing than THE NIGHTINGALE and in a way she has. Just not in the way that any right-minded person could imagine.