Ghosts… of the Civil Dead

Year: 1988
Director: John Hillcoat
Writer: Nick Cave
Cast: David Field, Nick Cave
The one Australian movie of the modern era of filmmaking that seeks (and deserves) the titles of 'darkest' and 'most cult appeal'.

It depicts a pristine underground prison in the outback in a near future, inhabited by the basest criminal lowlives. What makes it interesting and gives the narrative extra thrust is that it isn't just another run of the mill prison movie. The prison is privately run, and subject to damning reports of escalating violence among inmates that are reported at regular intervals throughout the film as lines of computer text across a screen.

It effortlessly portrays the faceless bureaucracy that decides every minute of the prisoners lives, and despite the pristine, well appointed surroundings, they seem to rebel against such inhumane treatment as one by one privileges like time outside cells, interaction with other inmates etc are taken away.

In fact, that's the one wonderful thing about Ghosts... of the Civil Dead, it doesn't tell you what to think, but makes you think about the situation it depicts - one we're dangerously close to realising in the modern day, where private companies do run prisons and politicians play up the danger of criminal elements in society in order to scaremonger the people into giving up basic rights.

There really isn't a story apart from a collection of scenes and subplots designed to illustrate the increasingly desperate and violent situation at hand.

It's nice enough to watch an Australian movie inhabit the place they've have always triumphed in - the antithesis to all the Hollywood sweetness and light we're bombarded with in this country, instead of a generation of Australian filmmakers trying to replicate it.

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