Home Entertainment Horror as Folk: If We Have Offended Shadows – The Idea of ​​Dreamtime in Kadaicha and The Dreaming (1988)

Horror as Folk: If We Have Offended Shadows – The Idea of ​​Dreamtime in Kadaicha and The Dreaming (1988)

by Ana Lopez
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Dreamtime, also referred to as Dreaming of Everywhen, is a concept that plays a major role in the modern cultural understanding of Australian Aboriginal folk beliefs. How accurate it is to those factual beliefs – either as a concept or term – is a subject of much debate, and more than we have room to really get into here. Fortunately, for our purposes it doesn’t matter much either.

The idea of Dreamtime, as we generally see it expressed by non-Aboriginal writers, is this concept of a kind of compressed history – a mythical time that took place before the present but also exists at the same time, accessible through dreams. In the Dreaming, all of your ancestors are nearby at the same time, and it is their shared experience that forms the basis of our current knowledge.

Again, it doesn’t really matter if this is an accurate representation of what was in fact a complex and nuanced array of different beliefs drawn from disparate peoples across an entire continent. The bottom line is that this is how these beliefs are usually presented to a modern audience, and it is idea of the Dreamtime that imbues these two Australian folk horror shots in Severin’s All ghosts are ours box set.

In kadaicha, actually the second movie on the disc, but I watched them out of order, this takes the form of a plot that feels like a contraction of much of what was happening in American cineplexes at the time. It is concrete A nightmare on Elm Street if Freddy Krueger was an Aboriginal shaman and the inciting incident was what people think Poltergeist is about.

I actually tried to look kadaicha on Tubi before digging into this set, not realizing it was here, but I stopped because the print on Tubi looked awful. Turns out the print looks pretty much the same here. I suspect the materials were used for remastering kadaicha for high-def were not the best. That’s perhaps unsurprising since the movie appears to have been on a very low budget.

Aside from the architecturally fascinating high school, there isn’t much visual interest in it kadaichawhich sadly sets it apart the most from the movies it seems to emulate – after all Elm street and Poltergeist included some of the more visually inventive films of their time, when it came to special effects.

Apart from some gory make-up, there aren’t really any special effects kadaicha. The spirit of the eponymous shaman can take the form of various animals such as spiders, dogs, and fish, meaning that most death scenes include intercuts of close-ups of animals with the characters screaming or scurrying about. That’s about it.

Dreamingalso released in 1988, is a lot visually more inventive, and luckily the print looks a bit better here too. This movie also makes its connection to the idea of ​​Dreamtime more explicit, even beyond the title. The opening lyric crawl describes “bloodthirsty” (white) whalers who “discovered natives harboring a mystical power they called their dreams.” These encounters led to “rapes, murders, massacres”, resulting in “a blot on the Dreaming”.

“A blemish that lives on in the present day and a new nightmare…”

Indeed, this “blemish” is the fulcrum on which Dreaming turns, combining the stories of an archaeologist who discovers a cave containing the bones of these early victims and his daughter, a doctor who treats a young Aboriginal woman who dies of her injuries after being mistreated by museum guards while recovering artifacts that by the archaeologist.

On paper, the clash of these two stories seems inevitable, but the movie takes the time to even let us know how intertwined they really are. Only halfway do we learn that the doctor and the archaeologist are related.

Dreaming is not a film interested in holding the viewer’s hand, is what I mean. Aside from the most superficial reading, the themes need to be resolved – in part because I’m not quite sure they fully connect. As is often the case in a movie like this (and as was certainly the case in Kadaicha), the question is why we center the experiences of white people in what is emphatically an Aboriginal story. But then, Dreaming seems to almost justify it depending on how you read the different subtexts.

The connection between the archaeologist’s work to excavate (and eventually rob) the sacred sites and the rape and violence of the whalers is heavily telegraphed but never actually stated, and as the goal of centering his experience daughter is kind of a “sins of the fathers” thing, giving her the chance to make reparations by enduring the suffering the whalers inflicted on their original victims, that almost makes all of this work – but you’ll have to put some of that legwork have to do yourself while watching.

Another thing you’ll have to deal with is the fact that the blades the whalers wield look an awful lot like hockey sticks, which strangely makes them harder to fear than they probably should be, all things considered.

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