What’s fascinating about Picnic At Hanging Rock is that it can be viewed as a precursor to films like Cache (often referred to as a thriller without thrills), in that it is completely built upon atmosphere, and even without the traditional staples of horror, or even considered scary, it can create a completely overwhelming atmosphere of dread.
The sequence where the boy is slipping while trying to climb the rock is one of the most suspenseful scenes in movie history, and after this film, I’m always left feeling extremely disconcerted for at least a day.
It’s beautiful isn’t it? I’ve never seen a film that conveys such a total sense of primal haunting. A dream of ancient children.
There’s shots of the outback through a veiled lens that are infinitely more haunted than any windswept moor or old house. This is one of those movies I try to watch at least once a year to remind myself what horror can be if it tries to aspire to be art, since the genre has devolved over the past twenty, and especially past five years into what-can-shock-you rather than what can really be scary.
I remember how much trouble I had sleeping after seeing this film. I can’t put what I felt into words which only means one thing… I need to see it again and lose another nights sleep. Well Worth It.
Weir’s great at creating atmosphere so thick it’s almost palpable without resorting to any cheap tricks. So little actually happens in the film, but the viewer is nonetheless left with an unshakable feeling of having watched something very disturbing. The Last Wave has a similar haunting effect, and some of Nic Roeg’s work gets under your skin the same way.
I am glad there are others that love this film and Weir’s Last Wave as much as I do. Many people (dullards, true), think Picnic at Hanging Rock is slow and tedious, even. I was riveted when I first watched it from beginning to end. I got caught up in the metaphysical tension, and, by the way, what did happen to those missing girls, anyway? Don’t you think this is the Australian version of L’Avventura? Does anyone know if Weir was intentionally thinking of that film when he made Picnic? I read somewhere that the movie is actually based on something that really happened. Now, maybe we need Speilberg to do a new version where the girls are spirited away by an alien abuduction. However, I don’t want one of those creepy, bug-eyed Speilberg aliens in the movie – they are too much!
The original novel, which also purported to be non-fiction, though it was in fact, all made up, had a lost chapter, where you could find out what really happened. I’d recommend googling it, as I’d feel bad spoiling it here, but suffice to say, it’s infinitely scarier when the nature of the disappearance is entirely unknown.
I’ve been meaning to watch L’Avventura for years now. Maybe next week?
I strongly recommend Weir’s The Plumber.
Weir is truly great. This film has haunted me for years and years and I agree with Tripzone’s recommendation of The Plumber. It’s very underrated.
Weir was part of the New wave of australian filmmakers who brought their product on an international scale. The Rock that envelopes the girl’s is both eerie, phallic shape and the caves of the rock are metapohrically vaginal recesses. The spectator is drawn into the maze of the rock. The haunting music as well as the dissolves, canted camera angles and sense of surrealism contribute to the overall feeling of death with no escape. The anthropomorphic rock caused the girl’s disappearance and ironically one could argue that the headmistress of the school is really the one who represented ‘evil’ A brilliant film that not only represents that what you can’t see within the diegetic space of the film is what really scares you. Much scarier than today’s crap-Hostel, etc,,,
Amen to that point Dave. Although Hostel simultaneously seems to deconstruct the genre it’s most famous for “inventing”, I’m just really not impressed with horror that shows you how you can be cut apart. I know these things already, what frightens me is how I can completely disappear without a trace, or how my headmistress can completely banish me from school because my parent’s are unable to make ends meet, precluding me from an education.
movie freaked me out. i borrowed it from a friend, i watched it, loved it, found it amazing, so i bought it. i haven’t been able to watch it since.
Haha, that’s the problem with Picnic, it’s amazing, and you want a copy to show people, but then you just loan it to them, cause watching it again means losing sleep.
Thought, you’re so right. I’ve tried to watch it again. But once that panwhistle starts to flow through the soundtrack i get jittery. 3 Women is another movie that I don’t think I’ll be able to watch again. it was just a creepy, uncomfortable movie. it took me two years to go back and rewatch Short Cuts. that’s no so much creepy as just really sad to me, all those broken people.
3 women for some reason did feel creepy. Just shows how talented Robert Altman was, how he made such a unique and different film!
Alright, so I just watched this film, albeit, in 2 parts and I was not really scared at all. in fact, I was kind of bored, especially during the first half. the synopsis claims that the movie is open ended on what actually occurred, well, that is an understatement. the story never gave you any real insight to a possibility, except for aliens. I am assuming this film was scary for its era, I do not think it has stands up today.
Also, this reminded me of a flat out waste of time/horrible horrible film: The Wicker Man.
Picnic is great. It was actually the first film I ever bought on DVD (I was quite late moving over from VHS).
There was a film called Innocence made a few years back which I thought was a bit of a rip off and nowhere near as creepy. Don’t know if anyone here has any thoughts on it?
Dead of Night (1945 or 46)
Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of those films that really get under ones skin. It’s not a horror movie, but the eerie atmosphere really adds up to highten the tension. And that damn pan-flute music…
@MG – I second “Dead of Night”, one creepy piece of work. Worth seeing esp. for that segment about a vintriloquist (Michael Redgrave) and his relationship problems with the dummy.
“Picnic at Hanging Rock” is a beautiful movie, although I wasn’t as disturbed or scared as most here, I enjoyed it much.
I like “The Wicker Man” too. (1973).
“Dead of Night” is a creepy and fun film. A nice balance of dark humor and horror. Kind of a creepy Groundhog Day with ghosts.
Is it ever implied in the story (Picnic) that the girls were possibly taken by aliens? Or is that in the book? If I remember correctly, there never really is an answer to what happened to them.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is great. I recently ordered the DVD from Criterion when they were having a moving sale, and was glad I did. So beautifully shot, great atmosphere, and really well directed by Weir. Glad to have it as part of my collection.
Peter Weir rules!
Just watched this. Creepy as hell, glad I saw it. Read the Wikipedia entry on the last chapter of the book. It would change the story from creepy to just plain crazy, I think.
what do you guys think of the criterion release of this? I actually love it, even though there’s a two hour documentary on it elsewhere. But I feel this would just ruin the film. This is a film that should stand on it’s own.
It’s all about the Zamfir (before he sold out).
Thought I bump up this thread since I just watched the film 4 the 1st time,does any1 got any theory about what happened 2 the gIrls(not sayin there is suppose 2 be a Explanation 4 what happened) cause I’m just curious as 2 ur guys interpretation of the film
I remember how much trouble I had sleeping after seeing this film. I can’t put what I felt into words which only means one thing… I need to see it again and lose another nights sleep.
Funny, I thought this film put people to sleep. Saw it myself—whole bunch of Year 7 kids.
I was there, watching it with the other children—totally boring film. And before you harp on about how I wasn’t “sophisticated enough”, I actually had pretty well-developed taste in film at the age of 12.
It’s not filmed in the “outback” either. Wake In Fright is the real outback (and a much better film).
Many people (dullards, true), think Picnic at Hanging Rock is slow and tedious…"
No, not dullards, we just like films with actual mystery. Picnic has no mystery. “Mystery” being not what you probably think it is.
I read somewhere that the movie is actually based on something that really happened.
Never happened—the film is total fiction. Nothing so boring could POSSIBLY happen in real life.
If you want great horrors flicks, try these:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (either version)The Wicker Man (original)The Stepford Wives (original)The Thing (remake, but the original is worth seeing, too)
By the way, I’m one of the few (maybe the only one!) at MUBi who has actually visited Hanging Rock. Guess what? It’s just a bunch of rocks—nothing “spooky” about it at all.
I wasn’t scared once.