We’ve seen locally produced creature features starring an oversized pig or a crocodile. Now, writer-director Luke Sparke introduces a monster from Aboriginal legend. 

Razorback was a pig, Rogue was a crocodile – they’re real animals. You ain’t seen anything like this before,” he grins.

It’s this point of difference that makes Red Billabong stand out amongst the recent wave of Australian genre films that appropriate zombies, slashers and other horror film staples. Few local films tap into the primal legends of our own land – a fact that Sparke was determined to change.

“When I was looking back at Australian history, this creature kept coming up, and there’s so many different versions of it, from white European settlers to the 1970s – reports and sightings of something in the woods. The real juicy stuff comes from the Aboriginal Dreamtime, and I respectfully reached out to a lot of groups to make sure I didn’t step on anyone’s toes.

“When I hired Greg Fryer to play Mr. Garvey [the film’s indigenous hero], he was very excited to bring his culture to a mainstream popcorn film for fun, and hope that audiences will think about that culture as well.”

Respectful of tribal beliefs, Sparke was mindful to avoid the Dreamtime incarnation of the creature (each tribe has its own different version) and instead looked to classic monster designs for inspiration. “I wanted the traditional look – the silhouette is this very mean shape with big arms, little head and big feet. I also wanted a distinctive bellow for the creature, like what was heard in the outback legends,” he tells STACK.

Sparke hopes that audiences get behind Red Billabong for its entertainment value, and also to ensure that more Australian films like it get made. “It’s not going to change your life, but it’s a fun two hours,” he promises. “If audiences back this we can continue to make Australian genre films to offset the great dramas we make. More adrenaline-junkie films that people can have fun with.”

Red Billabong is in cinemas now.