“Eyes on the ground…”
When the First Fleet arrived in Australia in 1788, they brought vampires with them in the hull of their ship, who developed a taste for Blackfella blood – who knew? This is the playful premise of Fire bitea new and creative take on the genre.
Warwick Thornton’s series (Samson and Delilah, Sweet Country) and Brendan Fletcher (Crazy bastards) is set in Opal City, a dusty, fictional film about Coober Pedy, known for its underground homes and opal mining.
Thornton and Fletcher cleverly repurposed such holes as vampire lairs, where the undead rise from the ground to feast on the blood of the indigenous residents.
If this is a commentary on the invasion – and the story suggests it is – then Tyson Walker (Rob Collins) is here to defend his turf and send those suckers back into oblivion. Walker is a renegade vampire hunter who works above ground with his adopted daughter, Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan).
“Do your job and don’t bring it here, that’s our business,” the elderly local Aunt Maria (Tessa Rose) tells him.
Tyson is a tough exterminator, ready to take down vampires with brute force or even a boomerang to the heart, but he reminds Shanika to keep her “eyes on the ground”, ready for any spontaneous attack from below.
But a Vampire King Josiah (Callan Mulvey) has recently arrived in the city from an Adelaide bus and will prove far more resilient.
There is also a “blood hunter” Jalingbirri (Kelton Pell) who has the strength and experience to fight the vampires below the surface. There’s also Kitty (Ngaire Pigram), who shares romantic history with Tyson, and British bartender Eleona (Yael Stone).
But while Tyson is doing his best to keep the vampires down, there’s pressure on the home front, especially around Shanika’s school and an upcoming visit from Child Protection.
“Who gives a damn about child protection? We have bigger problems,” he mumbles.
Apparently 230 years of them….
Directors Thornton & Fletcher, joined by Tony Krawtiz, adopt a sort of Crazy Maximus-meet-the-vampire world here, through the eyes of blackfella. The corrugated iron setting is distinctly outback Australia, with magical drone shots capturing the red earth terrain, filled with potholes and mounds of dirt like a war zone.
A beat-up car that has probably seen better days shooting roos rips through the landscape in its quest for vampires. You get the real feeling that the law of the land rules here. Tyson does what it takes to protect the community from him.
In the lead role Rob Collins is defiant, heroic and handsome, grinning or brandishing a weapon to strike at the enemy. Callan Mulvey, in another sexy villain role, is as silent and pale as the king of the vampires.
The graphics, coupled with a guitar soundtrack, are one of the strongest features of this very original concept, even if it can be difficult to decipher mumbled dialogue at times (it may have been a mixing problem with the preview).
It wouldn’t be a vampire story without a modicum of horror and gore, there’s just enough to tick that box in every episode.
Sometimes, Fire bite it’s positively cinematic and, in a genre that has seen nearly every idea sold out, manages to bring something new to the table.
Firebite begins Thursday, December 16 on AMC+ (available in Australia on the Apple TV app and Prime Video channels).