starring Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty, Jack Thompson
screenplay by Evan Jones, based on the novel by Kenneth Cook
directed by Ted Kotcheff
by Angelo Muredda As exploitation-movie titles go, Wake in Fright suggests a high-concept reversal of A Nightmare on Elm Street, where the only way to fall prey to bogeymen is to stay awake. It's a bit of an odd sell, given the more abstract horror mined by Toronto-born filmmaker Ted Kotcheff, of both The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and First Blood fame. Far from Kravitz country in its Australian setting but still working in the same territory of young, ambling men who want to be somebody, Kotcheff's earlier film--first screened in 1971 to both wild acclaim and great distaste from animal-rights activists, and somewhat forgotten until its resurrection in the "Ozploitation" documentary Not Quite Hollywood--is more interested in the terror of duration without purpose, of waking up when you have no good reason, than in anything so prosaic as a slasher. Elm Street it isn't, then, but Kotcheff burrows into his haughty lead's descent into himself--a stand-in for every thirtysomething man's realization that his coming-of-age has already happened, to no discernible effect--with a nihilist precision that's tough to shake off.