The Moogai Director Jon Bell Talks Aboriginal Horror Filmmaking, Creating a New Generation of Filmmakers, and Working With Family in This Interview

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Every so often, a horror film emerges that leaves you shaking and in tears. Not figuratively either. The Moogai quite literally left me shaken and weeping in my seat at its close. Writer/director Jon Bell has crafted an instant horror classic that unsettles as much as it interrogates the traumatic past of the Stolen Generation. As a white viewer, it forces an introspection that many other films addressing this part of Australian history have yet to reach.

With searing performances from Shari Sebbens and Meyne Wyatt, The Moogai further disturbs by its relatable and universal appeal. Shari leads as Sarah, a new mother bringing her child home with her new family, with Meyne’s Fergus as the father. Together, they have hopes for a bright future, but a darkness exists in their home that they don’t initially realise. As the fifteen-minute short unfurls, we grow to learn about a spirit in the house, the titular Moogai.

Andrew discusses with Jon Bell about the origins of The Moogai, creating Aboriginal horror, the manner that horror ties itself to our emotions and memories, and the future of filmmaking in Australia, all the while breaking down the preconceived notions about horror filmmaking.

Jon recently won the Best Director award at the prestigious Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, and The Moogai will also screen at this years Sydney Film Festival. Head over to the website for more details.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this interview discusses the Stolen Generation and intergenerational trauma.

What a powerful film you’ve created. Congratulations.

I wanted to do something more serious. (I’m) probably known for maybe for lighter fee, or just sort of episodic television (Cleverman). But, filmmakers need to have something to say. It can be frustrating, where you got something to say, and you can’t say because there’s no room in that sort of environment, like comedy, or? Well, there is room in comedy, I guess, with sketch comedy, well any kind of comedy. But yeah, it was good to be able to say something about something serious.

As you’re saying, you can kind of investigate that in comedy, but it’s maybe not given the same level of attention or care, as it might do in other genres. What I liked about the horror genre is that was so so clearly able to investigate and explore really serious themes, like, what you’re exploring here, the stolen generation, so well. I was I was left shaken at the end of it. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and you manage it in about 15 minutes, which is just,… I wish there more filmmakers would be able to watch something like this and learn how to create the economy that you do here with both the direction and the writing. And I guess it may be that’s a good point to start off with is, how did you manage to inject everything into such a short period of time? How did you know what to put in what to leave out from the script?

I tried to make a try to really actually make a short film not a small film in or, like, it’s still a film, and it’s still got the journey of a feature film. And I think maybe that’s like, what you’re just saying, that’s sort of what makes it feel (complete), so there’s still, there’s still definitely beginning, middle and end, there’s still a journey for the lead character, or for all the characters, but certainly for the lead character. And, when I was writing the short, – well, it’s kind of a proof of concept – when I was writing that I was also writing the feature, so sketching out the biggest things, and then kind of trying to condense them, not condense the content. So it might be like, ‘oh, let’s take this scene and make that’.

The little girl in the short, she’s in a bigger part of it in the feature. So, her journey is the same. It was almost like adapting a book or something, where you take that longer version. I think it is important that we when we do make these short films, like we sort of got into a habit of making shorts that have a setup and a punch line, that are comedic. Instead of, okay, this is still a film, you still got 15 minutes, 10 minutes, five minutes, to tell something, to tell a story that could easily be a feature and it is good for your discipline, in the sense that when you do switch over the biggest canvases, you set up real quick.

You certainly you have more time but the way that people have gotten now, you know, if you don’t grab them in the first 10 minutes, they just literally pick something new on a streaming service. So, that’s kind of important too, hooking them, but that doesn’t mean fast paced stuff. That doesn’t mean like jump, like, you got to cut and you got to it’s got to be action and all that. Because what I was trying to do was have a slow pace, just to get before audiences come in, if they would have seen in the cinema come in, sit down, they’ve had the sugar rush, popcorn, sugar, drinks, whatever, and then they just come down, and they just get into the film’s rhythm. So that when we go up, that’s okay, because they’ve, they’ve settled down and their heartbeats dropped, and they relaxed.

And it’s also like, trying to get them into that state, so that when you do start showing things that are creepy, it genuinely unnerves them, because the audience is hopefully invested, like invested enough physiologically, you know, so that they are actually down instead of ‘ah, oh, that wasn’t really scary’, yeah, that’s because you’re up. So it was kind of a combination of those things.

I like what you’re saying about short films, I think that so often, we’ll just see short films at a film festival, and that’s kind of the life of them. But then we forget that… I mean, I’ve watched countless short films over the years and have found them to be much better than the feature length films that are out there. And people kind of disregard them as being films. But they’re still films. I mean, it’s literally in the name of it, it’s a Short. Film. We need to kind of treat them with a little bit more respect. Is that something that you found as a filmmaker, obviously, treating this as a proof of concept with the view for making a feature film is there, but living by itself as a short film is really important, too.

Yeah, absolutely. I really wanted to make a film that… Certainly, if the feature never gets made, you’d go back and go, ‘Oh, that holds up.’ Like, it feels a bit timeless, and it feels like, if you’ve got 15 minutes, hey, do you want to watch something a bit unnerving or something, like, the audiences would come back to it, in the same way that we might come back to longer films. I don’t know about you, but I’m actually finding it a little bit harder these days to settle down and watch some… like to commit, (that I) can actually commit to the storytelling. That’s even as a filmmaker, you know, you got to watch other people’s work, you got to see what’s out there, you got to see the new things.

But the notion of… I think you’re right, they (short films) may have been sort of disrespected, or not disrespected, but maybe relegated to ‘oh, that’s that kind of storytelling’. But I feel like they’re still films in a way are sort of coming into their own. Just it just because, you know, to commit to a longer thing. Who’s got an hour and a half to scratch themselves really? Especially with kids at home, COVID, all that sort of stuff.

Exactly. And I’ve found that, a lot of the films nowadays, they feel a little bit bloated, like I went and saw The Last Duel the other day, and it’s two and a half hours long. And I’m like this could have (been shorter), the economy of storytelling is just not there. But the short film, you’ve got to really clear everything and get to the point.

Let’s also talk about the meaning of the word ‘Moogai’, because I understand that there’s two different meanings, two different countries have two different meanings for the particular term. Can you talk about that by any chance?

Yeah, yeah. For Bundjalung people, it’s just a spirit, like it just means spirit. So it’s kind of like, we do use it in ways of saying to a kid, like, the boogey man will get you. Yeah, there’s a Moogai over there, stay here, but we also use it genuinely like ‘nah, something felt wrong, I think there’s a Moogai over there’. That’s the way Bundjalung people use it, but they use the same word for some somewhere else. I think it means elder or something. I’m not sure but here it just means spirits. So in that sense, the Moogai in the film… yes, the stolen generation has transgenerational trauma and all that sort of stuff and postnatal depression and all that stuff’s in there.

But it’s also like the Moogai itself has its own point of view, in that, it just wants what it wants, you know A lot of traditional Aboriginal stories, they’re not always like Aesop’s Fables, where this is designed to teach you something, sometimes they’re just the story that happened, and the people remember the story. And so in that sense, I think the Moogai isn’t bad either. You know, it’s just, it just is, it just wants what it wants, which just happens to be your baby, in the world of the story. But in the world of the story, and in traditional Aboriginal stories, the Spirit, the agents of destruction aren’t always evil.

Shari Sebbens as Sarah in The Moogai short film, directed by Jon Bell, produced by Causeway Films, 2020 Photo credit Tess Peni / Causeway Films

It does carry a very clear, double meaning in the film, too, when you’re writing the script was it ‘I need to write about the stolen generation first’, and then postnatal depression, or were they both at the same time as you’re writing the script?

They were kind of both the same time. I was raised by a single mother, and just had sisters and a wife, four daughters, more granddaughters than grandsons, just surrounded by women. So it was kind of like, I was just trying to tell the story of… certainly in my family, there have been close calls, my grandparents, when they were younger, white people came there to take them, but the property that they lived on the white people that owned the property, told him that they were not there at different times, but there white people that came to take them knew that they were there.

So there’s been these close calls, but we pass that story down within the family as, as kind of like a cautionary tale, and like, ‘you just gotta watch em, you just gotta watch em, because you never know’. So it was a boogeyman story, and it was like…

‘ah just gotta watch these whitefellas because they’ll try and take your kids’.

And even now, like my Mrs., she works with young mothers and stuff like that. And even now, there can be fear within the community, not an overt fear, but still a fear that if you do go to hospital, and people want to make a judgment call on you, not knowing your history or not knowing anything, doc’s will be in and they’ll try take your baby. So that ever-present boogeyman is just sort of ever present in our lives, and it sort of started from that, which is kind of a little bit Stolen Generation, a little bit horror film.

I had an uncle we used to make a ton of horror films when we were kids, and so I just wanted to get back to that sort of genre filmmaking where… something that’s not just chock full of jump scares, like cheap scares, like things that a genuinely creepy that sit with you and you go, ‘Oh, my God, see that! That really, that scares me when I think about it’, those fears, those deep-seated fears, like the Stolen Generation, and someone taking your children, that’s a universal fear. ‘Am I really seeing what I think I’m seeing’, you know, we’ve all had those moments. Taking this specific of Aboriginal people and of women, and trying to make it universal, trying to get the universal in there. So it sort of started from the family stories. Really, that’s a long way of saying that.

Do you see filmmaking as kind of a continuation of carrying on these stories that have been going on for generations and generations?

Good question. Yes and no? Yes, in the sense that absolutely there is a certain style of storytelling that Aboriginal people have. And that, once it’s put on the screen, people will find it’s quite different to… well, (it’s) a different sub-genre of horror films. The Moogai is kind of a monster film and a psychological horror. There’s also the little girl in there who feels a little bit like Japanese horror, or something like that. There’s enough things in there that you go, ‘oh, this feels like other things’, but it definitely is its own thing, in that what I’m saying about The Moogai just having its own point of view.

Like, ‘come into my parlor said the spider to the fly’, like, if flies all get around and tell horror stories, they’re probably all about spiders. But spiders are just like… you know, it’s like us with cows, or something? Cows be like, ‘oh man, you got to watch them humans’. So, yeah, so it is a continuation in that sense, but also, it just continues on regardless of film, or regardless of Western civilisation or anything like those stories still get told.

The story itself is something that has value, and I don’t know if that can ever really be translated to the screen. Because maybe now because you’ve got phones and stuff, you can just make a film for yourself; nobody might ever see that film, it’s just for yourself. Previously, because it took so much capital to make a film, it’s sort of like, you know, a film had to find an audience to be considered valid. And even if everybody says that’s the worst film ever made that story still is a being in itself, almost, sort of, in Aboriginal culture. So. So that’s what I mean. Yes, it is the latest expression of it, but no it isn’t, because the stories just live.

That makes sense. I had been curious about how, because Aboriginal stories are so much for the country that they come from, but films are a communal aspect. And, for me, as a white guy, it feels like I’m trespassing sometimes when I’m watching Aboriginal stories, like I shouldn’t be part of this. And that was one of the things I really felt amplified with the Moogai, and I don’t know if this is a conscious decision or not, but the way that you place the camera, from the perspective of the creature, (who) is behind the camera, and effectively, I’m sitting there feeling the characters staring at me going, you, you’re the guy that’s going to steal our baby, it added this extra layer of ‘you shouldn’t be here, you shouldn’t be here at all’. And it really kind of felt like it put the spotlight on me, justifiably, which was a really unsettling experience. So, was that a conscious decision at all?

That was a conscious decision. Like certainly budgetarily, we didn’t have the money to see it (the Moogai). But certainly, that was a conscious decision artistically to try and garner that exactly that kind of reaction.  No, it was deliberate. And it’s also, you know, because it’s a it’s a common technique in these kinds of films, it doesn’t feel out of place, but it certainly was like that for I thought, (that) white Australians might feel that way.

Yeah, it’s good. I’m glad that it made me feel uncomfortable, because I shouldn’t feel comfortable at all. And, to have that desired effect is really is really something I think.

That’s the trick I reckon, like the real, you know, the creepiness, like, something’s gotta be creepy. ‘There’s something wrong with this, and I don’t know quite what it is.’ And I just have to… like you walk down a dark alley, and a bin gets knocked over, you know, it’s a cat. You know it’s a cat. But because it’s darkness, and because there’s no answer, your brain just rushes in with all these answers. And, I think that’s the key to creepiness, but that to really helps the metaphor for these kinds of things (to) play. Certainly she’s thinking, at different time Sarah’s thinking, ‘is that really a chicken fetus? Or was that just a egg? Hang on, what?’ Like, and it’s gone before you really get the chance to sort of forensically examine what did you see? That’s the trick of the trying to find the creepiness.

Meyne Wyatt as Fergus in The Moogai short film, directed by Jon Bell, produced by Causeway Films, 2020 Photo credit Tess Peni / Causeway Films

Spoilers in the next answer

Let’s talk about the casting as well, because both Shari and Meyne, they’re always great, but I’m getting to see another level of who they are as actors. Did you always have them in mind when you when you had this written?

Yeah, yeah, pretty much. I’ve worked with both of them before (The Gods of Wheat Street, Black Comedy, Mystery Road, Redfern Now). And they really are such good actors. Because this was a still film all about stillness, they’re good enough actors, and it’s not like you don’t have to tell them what to do, they get it. But just getting to see them as a viewer, just sitting there and just watching them, I think it just really helps you see sometimes just what people are capable of. I know what you mean, because I feel the same.

Like, when Shari did the scene, just after the car accident, when she’s on her back and the Moogai takes the baby, me, Sam (Jennings) and Kristina (Ceyton), two of the producers were on set as well, we were sitting behind the thing and man, it was so emotional, like it was so confronting. Just sitting there and just hearing it and just trying to like… you know, it was 4am and we were out there at the at the back out near Penrith, and we’re in the bush, and it’s completely quiet.

And it’s just this voice screaming out, ‘give me back my baby’.

Oh man, like, you know you’re making a horror film, but we just had tears, like we were so full on. And there was there was a line that I’d forgotten that she remembered. ‘You’re not listening to me’ was the line she remembered, and in the midst of all that, we were feeling it, I was in tears, and then she can stop and say, ‘oh, do you want this line?’ I was just like, ‘what? How? What level of acting are you on?’

You’re like, ‘hang on, I’m having an emotional moment over here because of what you’re doing.’

Yeah, it was like, *imitating holding back tears*, ‘yeah, say it, say the line, say the line’.

And then Meyne in that scene when he’s got to come back in (to the house), Fergus has kind of brushed her off, he thinks, ‘oh, I think you’re going through something. I’ve got a shitload of work seriously. I don’t need this aggravation right now.’ And then when he comes back in the room, and he sees it, and we talked about, like, if you walk back in a room, and you saw a tiger sitting in the corner, you know, when you see a tiger in the flesh, you go, ‘oh, my God, that is a massive animal’. And the way that it moves is so powerful. It’s almost like, you know, you can’t of take your eyes off it, and you’re just trying to be as silent as possible and get out. And where did it come from? You see all that stuff just moving around in his head, even though he’s not playing all these things? And that’s exactly it man. I’m a big believer in your hire good people, and you kind of get out of the way really.

End of spoilers

There’s a moment of comedy that comes a little bit earlier as well, which I think is really pointed because it’s a moment where Meyne, is like, ‘so there’s a drunk white guy who’s wanting to steal our baby’, and his line delivery is both a little bit amusing, and it’s kind of this diffusion of the tension there. Was that a pointed decision to be like, we’ve got a certain period of time we need to diffuse some tension somewhere so we can build it up again?

Yes, absolutely. Like the rhythm of, very slow in the beginning, even when they walk in, they’re crossing a threshold, they’re entering the space, they’re walking through a doorway, with a child. They’re not a couple anymore. They’re family now. So they come into the space redefined.

And that shot from the beginning, kind of is the Moogai’s point of view. It’s a series of family portraits, from the three of them, to the two of them, to just the Moogai wants the baby. And that sort of rhythm there, leading up to the first jump, or the first scare, like the little girl in the room, and then reset, she comes back out, ‘I’m just gonna cook breakfast’, and then we start to go up again. And it’s just that rhythm of resetting, without like consciously trying to show. For the audience, it’s not obvious that it’s a reset. It’s not like, scare, okay, now we’re gonna cut to a whole different location or something, you know, it’s trying to be more subtle and almost trying to craft it, you just take it out and try and not show people where the joins are.

But especially that moment, you’re right, especially that moment in terms of a bit of a laugh, diffuse tension so that they can leave the shot, and then we can do zoom out, zoom in. Or zoom out, and then we and then we cut to night, so that when we come back to her on reverse, like she’s in the middle of something, we didn’t even start up again. We sort of started up and started to come down, but then realised we’re actually up here, because she’s getting to a really manic place. But that’s the rhythm, that’s absolutely the rhythm. You’re spot on there.

As you’re retelling all this, my heart is starting to race again. Like just revisiting the images in my mind. That’s how that’s how good it is.

Ah, thanks man. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The little girl is my Granddaughter.

I just listened to the interview you did and I was like, ‘ah, it’s a family affair!’

Yeah. Yeah. When I showed it to my other nephews and stuff, and they’re older men, they still sort of jumped at it. It’s like, you know her, you know that child, you know her. You see her all the time. You know, when she’s got her head down. They were just sort of like, ‘oh, ok, what’s he doing?’ And yeah, just that visceral reaction to it.

What was it like having your family on set as well, especially your Granddaughter in such a vital role?

Oh, it was awesome. It was awesome. The lad who plays the gas station attendant, that’s my cousin. And then the rest of them, all the kids, are like nephews, nieces and grandkids. And it was a real family affair, and it relaxed me, because I was working with children, that I’m used to reprimanding, so you can actually direct them like adults. *sternly* ‘No, that’s not what I want to do it like this’.

*laughing* Not that I do that, I’m a pretty soft touch. But it made it easier. And then it also set up the next generation, even though they’re all young, they all watch stuff and then they turn around and say ‘oh Pop is that person an extra? Is this a such and such?’ And they use the terminology. So it’s good to educate kids and just give them an experience and also let them know, when you watch something, there’s been so much hard work put into that. But no, it was freeing.

I’m a bit surprised as well, like, Australia has got a lot of great horror films, for sure. But we don’t have that many Aboriginal horror films. I think there’s beDevil and maybe, gosh, maybe a couple of others that I’m not aware of. I’ve been tracking a list of the different horror films that we’ve got, and yeah, beDevil was kind of the only one that really came to my mind, and then The Moogai. Is there a reason why there hasn’t been that many Aboriginal horror films?

There’s been a few shorts, as well, that I’m aware of, but I think they haven’t quite like… well, like what I was saying about Aboriginal stories just existing for their own sake, I think maybe because none of them have garnered attention, but I don’t mean that there’s anything better or anything worse. I just mean like, you know, Australia’s a bit of an odd decision maker around those things anyway.

It really is.

Because really, when something does well, it’s not like we go back. We did Mad Max, and then it wasn’t like we did 100 post-apocalyptic things. So I think there’s also an element of, *dismissive tone* ‘okay, Aboriginal people, you’re gonna tell horror stories, what are they about? What are they going to be about?’ You know, sort of like, I don’t know if Australia is that interested in the answer? Because horror, you’re going to talk about trauma, horror stories about trauma, and, the traumatic things (history), and nobody really wants to… Well, not nobody, but depends on how they presented.

I was gonna say, I disagree. I know there’s an audience out there for Aboriginal stories and Aboriginal cinema, if it’s not in Australia than it certainly is globally.

Well, I think that’s the difference, too. This market that we’re in now, with streamers, and, certainly the streamers are probably still gatekeepers, in some respect, but there’s not as many gatekeepers. People are interested in going, ‘oh, well, what does this culture say about this thing?’ ‘Boom, here you go.’

Certainly on Netflix, at least, there’s a lot of a lot of horror films that I didn’t know existed or from different cultures, like, Under the Shadow, for example, which is a great Persian horror film, and that in itself has got so much different culture in there, which I didn’t know about, and because it’s on Netflix, it’s accessible. And I would hope that that might be an avenue going forward. But we’re in such a complicated time with Australian film. It’s so frustrating at times. I was part of the Australian Film Summit the other day online, and there was a lot of people in the chat who were talking about the need for more support for horror films. And then the people who were doing the presentations were like, ‘oh, there’s no audience for horror films’. And it’s like, well, there is an audience. There’s an audience there. The people who are making them are saying that there is an audience, I know there’s an audience you know, so, we need to wake up a little bit.

Oh, absolutely. Horror is probably… geez, is one of the, if not the genre, that always consistently sells. There’s no period where it’s gone away. People are always willing to watch something that scares them and gives them a jolt, so that they can feel scared while being safe. No, horror is massive. Like the meetings that have happened off the back of The Moogai didn’t happen of.. which is a 15-minute film… I wrote The Gods of Wheat Street, and that was a six-hour miniseries. Like, a 15-minute piece, versus however many hours of TV and whatnot, and this is the one that gets meetings in the US. They know that it sells. Horror sells.

So what’s the future The Moogai? As soon as it ended, I remember back in the early 2000s, I used to be able to buy short films on DVD (Rubber Johnny, the BMW series), and they’d have director’s commentary and stuff. And I remember buying them and giving them to friends, because I’d be like, ‘you’ve gotta see this short film, you’ve gotta watch this’. And, that was my immediate reaction when I finished watching, I was like, ‘I need to have 10 copies so I can give it to all the people I know and say, “here, watch this particular film”‘. Is there a life outside of the film festival circuit?

So, NITV, they’re going to screen it. I’m not total sure when, but after the first festival circuit. I’ve finished another draft of the feature. I really tried to make The Moogai itself make it feel original enough that it’s something that we haven’t seen. There’s a little bit of a weight on this, the weight to make something that feels strong enough to prove that there is a market for Aboriginal horror films, like you’re saying. Trying to make the monster in a monster film feel authentic enough and to sort of maybe lay the way for some more filmmakers to get opportunities in the genre. Maybe that’s an avenue like putting it out on DVD or something like, even though it feels old school now, but I don’t know how many people got DVD players, but there was something nice about going and buying it and having it, and having it there. And that’s not a bad idea at all, man.

I mean, I’ve got The Babadook sitting right next to me, I have it sitting next to my computer because I like to look at it, and remember Essie Davis’ performance in that. And so even though… I watch it almost every year, because it’s a great film, but just having the physical thing there, it brings everything back, just like you retelling the story about how you’re making it earlier, it brings everything back. And it’s funny, I was talking on the radio the other week about horror films, and the guy I was talking with was like, ‘why do people want to be terrified? Why do they want to be scared?’ I’m like, because there’s no other feeling like it. And I think one of the things that you had mentioned (in an interview prior) was ‘you watch drama, but you feel horror’. It’s that feeling, the emotion that stays with you. It’s a tangible thing. You can’t get that really anything else.

No you can’t. It’s got to effect you physically. Like, comedy (is) a little bit as well. If it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, then it fails. And drama is so interpretable. You and I probably similar age, I had one uncle who was who was really into horror, and he’s used to show me horror films when I was a kid. And I remember watching The Evil Dead, the original, when I was like, eight, or something. And it scarred me. And I still haven’t watched it since. Because it was so… exactly what you’re saying… it brings back that feeling. The relationship that you end up having with these films, yeah, it’s exactly what you’re saying. To own them, and then you’ve got them there. And it’s not just in your head and then out your head, like everything else these days.

There are films that I haven’t re-visited, but they’re still some of the best I’ve ever seen, because of that feeling. Because I saw them at a certain point, like watching Child’s Play, when I was younger, and just being terrified by that film. I’ve never revisited it because I don’t need to, it’s all in my mind. I can remember it all the time. Just like you can remember Evil Dead. And it’s just like it sits there in your mind.

Yeah, and when you look back on it now, like, you know, it feels like what kind of childhood were we having to watch those films? So, but those in the 80s, I think horror films, maybe that was their heyday, the 70s, 80s, where they had these really disturbing films. I mean, they’re disturbing. There’s seriously something wrong with them. I don’t know if we internalise that jump or that physical, that adrenaline rush, and so for a certain generation, we’ve just gone after it further, you know, we’ve kind of become addicted to it or something.

It’s a formative thing. It really is. I liked what you were saying about having your grandkids and nieces and nephews on set to try and kind of give them the language and the idea of going forward, carrying on the generation of filmmaking as well. And I hope that that pairing of horror and filmmaking for them has sparked to a whole new generation within themselves for appreciating horror films and wanting to make them as well. So I look forward to seeing what they do in 10, 15 years’ time.

Well, certainly even when we when we do watch stuff, because they were right into It, and I was like ‘oh, I don’t know if you should watch this’. ‘No, like it’s alright, we know it’s pretend you know, this, that and the other’ and ok. So we watched it and they were like just pointing out little things, you know, it sort of just takes the artifice off it. Except they just go okay, now I’m just going to look at the craft and still the story and everything, but yeah, a bit of the craft, which is good for any kids to learn about craft in this day and age.

Without a doubt, especially something that’s so practical too. I think that practical effects have kind of fallen by the wayside, which is a bit of a shame because there’s nothing like having a tangible thing. And that’s one of the things which is so effective in The Moogai is the hand just come in from out of frame and we don’t need to see the whole creature because we’ve seen enough or we’ve at least built up an image of it in our mind of of what it looks like and how terrifying it might be. And to just see its hand is just like… oh…

Well, the hands and the chicken embryo…

Oh that chicken embryo, I won’t forget that.

…they’re both practical. You’re right, you can’t beat it. It just feels real. Like there’s no other way to say it. It just feels real. Feels like it has weight feels. Feels real.

Jon, I appreciate your time, and being able to talk about The Moogai. I’ve been talking with a couple of friends about this over the weekend, and I’m so excited to be able to talk to you about this because it honestly is the best Australian film I’ve seen this year. That’s a level of how much I love this film. I can’t wait to get behind it and get people out to go and see it at Sydney Film Festival and be like, whenever it’s screening on NITV, and be like, ‘folks, you’ve got to stop everything and just watch this’. People need to learn from this film, about what you’ve done. It’s great.

Thanks bruz, I really appreciate that because so it’s always good to speak to people who are  as invested in horror as I am. And have the knowledge of horror. Like, you can actually have a good yarn.

I appreciate it.

It’s been a good yarn.

We just won (the) Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, Best Director. That’s my first Best Director. New York City. You beauty.

Fantastic mate, that’s really good.

Thanks, man. Cheers. This film as well, the way the international audiences have embraced it, it really shows you that, exactly what you’re saying before, the appetite for horror films and horror films that have a certain point of view, really is out there. It really is out there. It’s not just Australia, where people just sort of have preconceived notions and then just sort of find stuff that reinforces their bias.

You’re gonna go from strength to strength, I’m looking forward to catching the feature length film.

There’s stuff that I’d love to tell you about how, but I won’t, I won’t yet.

That’s part of the joy of what I get to do, is to be able to talk to people like yourself, and then know that there is something in the future coming along. Because, so often, I’ll talk to feature filmmakers and they only make one feature film, and then they kind of disappear, but I know, on the strength of everything that you’ve done, that we’re gonna have a whole (lot more), there is so much more to come.

Well, I’d certainly like to try and make a trilogy of Aboriginal horror films. So you know, if we’re not going to be a movement or anything, but at least there’s a group of films there.

Well, whatever happens, I’m there.

Thanks man.

Andrew F Peirce

Andrew is passionate about Australian cinema, Australian politics, Australian culture, and Australia in general. Found regularly talking online about Sweet Country, and reminding people to watch Young Adult.

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