You’ll Never Find Me review: Australian nerve-fraying horror

A barefoot young woman knocks on a caravan door in the dead of night, setting the scene for skin-crawling tension.

Australia is on a frightful high with horror movies at the mo, from the almighty Sundance slayer Talk to Me to chillingly low-key alien invasion film Monolith and on to the high-octane thrills of Australian-shot, American-set chat show possession nightmare Late Night With the Devil.

And so it was with breath held tight and high expectations raising like goosebumps that we settled in for the latest spooker from South Australian filmmakers – honestly, why are they so good at being creepy? Berthing locally at last year’s Adelaide Film Festival, having premiered at Tribeca and gone on to Fantastic Fest in America, there was good cause to be excited by Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell’s debut feature.

And it starts extremely strong, on a dark and stormy night as a drenched young woman (Jordan Cowan) shuffles barefoot up to and rat-a-tat-tats on the door of an isolated caravan, seeking shelter from a relentless downpour that has soaked her to the bone. But has she found sanctuary, or is something terribly amiss with the also unnamed man (Brendan Rock) who welcomes her, a fellow stranger, into his meagre home?

Primal fear

Penned by Bell, she keeps the tension ratcheted tight as these suddenly intimate strangers settle in for an insistent drink at the tiny table where there’s no escaping the looks – fear, curiosity, anger? – darting across the scant space between them as they prod at the edges of whatever’s going on.

Is it a simple case of an odd but well-meaning man taking pity on a party-goer who has wandered too far from the beach – at his hour? – on a terrible night and found herself lost in an out-of-way trailer park far from prying eyes?

Or is there more at play here?

The primal fear of any young woman who finds herself in this scenario sparks inescapable shivers as our communal will for her to run, rain be damned, arcs across the hushed theatre. Allen and Bell adeptly amplify the airlessly claustrophobic, confined caravan space, particularly when the woman agrees to take a warm shower and a borrowed sweater while her clothes dry on the radiator. We all know the fatal potential of this place, and the fear-inducing perversion of peeping toms who may or may not be armed with a kitchen knife.

Read: Talk to Me review: an Australian horror to possess you

At a brisk 90-ish minutes, all of the pieces are in place for a tightly focused chamber horror that knows exactly which buttons to push while smartly freaking with the rules just enough that you might begin to wonder just who it is that’s in most at risk here. After all, never trust anyone who shows up in the dead of night.

Caravan of catastrophe

If Allen and Bell had kept things simple, holding tight to this whistling pressure cooker’s unbearable anticipation of awful things waiting in the wings, it might have rated right up there in the canon of reasons never to visit Australia that must keep the tourism board up at night.

While Carnifex actor Rock isn’t quite as strong as he could be in the unnerving hermit role, he delivers just enough to keep us writhing on tenterhooks, never quite knowing if and when his kindly words will spill over into unkind actions.

Cowan – who popped up in a blink and you’ll miss her role in Wolf Creek 2 – also delivers good work, grasping our gnawing fear for her wellbeing by the collarbone. The Survival of Kindness cinematographer Maxx Corkindale makes excellent use of the confined space, including brief forays outside and flashes of the storm as seen from inside a suspiciously parked car. Darren Lim’s swerving score stirs panic.

But tragically, You’ll Never Find Me falls foul of the un-doer of far too many promising horrors by spectacularly imploding in an utterly ludicrous and excruciatingly embarrassing final act that hurls every hard-earned tremor out the caravan door in an abject mess of far from frightening silliness. It’s a dreadfully disappointing climax that abandons the psychologically unnerving power of suggestion in favour of an array of risible effects that wouldn’t look out of place in Disney’s Haunted House attraction and squanders the inescapable impact of this previously taut two-hander.

Worth watching for the nerve-fraying journey to get there, it’s all too unfortunate that the heinously misjudged Hollywood-style outro distracts from clearly promising work from the latest South Australian panic-weavers who will hopefully hold truer to You’ll Never Find Me’s initial promise as they plot their next move.

Because the once-again-ascendant Australian horror industry deserves more originality, screaming in our unique voice, not less.

You’ll Never Find Me is in Australian cinemas from 14 March


3 out of 5 stars


Brendan Rock, Jordan Cowan


Indianna Bell, Josiah Allen

Format: Movie

Country: Australia

Release: 14 March 2024