A book can crack open a whole new world for the reader. In the case of Australia’s all-female-directed horror film anthology, Dark Whispers, a mysterious ancestral book left upon a mother’s passing to her daughter becomes the very literal entrance point into an unsettling universe.
For us, what lies inside is an eclectic bundle of 10 short films, ranging from a gothic animation, to a twisted mermaid fantasy, to an Indonesian ghost story. It was conceived by writer-director Megan Riakos, who issued a call-out to Australian women filmmakers for new or existing works, and those selected were granted their own unique chapter in the anthology.
There’s real pop to the directorial visions on display in this assortment of psychological thrillers, some of which dip their toes into horror. The visually striking homage to old-school horror in Janine Hewitt’s 2005 short The Intruder, starring Asher Keddie (pre-Offspring fame) as Zoe, is gorgeously shot on 35mm film. With a raging storm outside, there’s plenty of dramatic, flashing lightning and shadowy interiors to keep the suspense alive in the short running time. When Zoe’s estranged friend Angela (Bree Desborough) unexpectedly arrives at her doorstep, it trades loud jump scares for the stewing fear of a lingering presence outside.