Australia scores highly in global production rankings for thrillers and horror

Jacqueline McKenzie in ‘Alpha Gateway’.

Australia ranks second in the world, only behind the UK, for the production of thrillers and eighth for horror movies.

Unsurprisingly given Peter Jackson’s production powerhouse, New Zealand is the world’s most prolific maker of fantasies.

That’s according to an extensive study by UK researcher/commentator Stephen Follows who analysed more than 117,000 movies from 151 countries shot between 1998 and 2017.

Australia’s percentage output of thrillers is higher than that of Canada, the US, New Zealand, India, Ireland, Colombia, Sweden and Spain by his reckoning.

In the horror category Oz trails Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the US, the UK, Ireland and Canada. The report did not address specific films or filmmakers but clearly we are well represented in the horror/thriller genres with the likes of the Spierig brothers, Greg McLean, Jennifer Kent, John V. Soto, Ben Young and Damien Power.

StudioCanal is launching the Spierig’s Winchester on Thursday. Soto’s Gateway Alpha, which stars Jacqueline McKenzie, Myles Pollard and Ben Mortley, is available on more than 30 VOD and cable platforms in the US. The Backlot Studios will release the sci-fi thriller as The Gateway in Australian cinemas on May 3.

Writer-producer Shayne Armstrong hailed the Australian findings as a pleasant surprise because they quantify how popular those genres are with Australian filmmakers and the significant number of fans of the genres.

“It’s something that those of us who champion the genres have suspected for a while and as always flies in the face of the various broadsides sidelining horror and thrillers that come from certain (but luckily not all) producers, funding agencies and distributors in Australia,” he tells IF.

“Sure, Oz horror and thriller films are often more popular and successful overseas than at the domestic box office but not even that gets recognised enough. As this analysis demonstrates, they’ll keep getting made because there’s a core of filmmakers who are dedicated to those genres and are aware of the viability of the market for them.”

Armstrong and his screenwriting partner Shane Krause are developing numerous projects including Theo: A Haunting, a supernatural horror movie with producer Kristian Moliere (The Babadook), Submerged,  a sci-fi horror/thriller with producer Michael Robertson (Black Water, The Reef) and Tremula, a sci-fi thriller TV series with director/producer Michael Rymer (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Hannibal).

Also on their slate is Monster Business, a thriller with director Mark Hartley (Patrick) and producer Julie Ryan (Scare Campaign, 100 Bloody Acres).


Soto tells IF, “Times have changed; the world is truly a global market place and there is a huge appetite for entertainment although the Australian market represents less than 5 per cent of the worldwide spend on movies. I think it makes sense to produce films that cater not just to Australian audiences but also to international.”

Follows found that 50 per cent of all historical movies made over that time came from European nations. Collectively Europeans scored highly in biographies and war movies but they are less interested in horror (accounting for only 22 per cent of all horror movies made), Westerns (21 per cent) and action movies (19 per cent).

North American filmmakers dominate production of Westerns (generating 69 per cent of the genre), sci-fi (57 per cent) and horror (57 per cent) movies. But they are less represented in war movies, historical films and animation. The latter stat may be surprising given the prolific output of Pixar, Fox’s Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Animation and others.

Just over half of all movies produced in the past 20 years had drama as one of their genres. Dramas are most common from Israel, where almost four out of every five movies made is a drama.

Australia did not figure in either the top 10 or lowest 10 territories for drama, comedy, action, history or fantasy.

That is probably due to the fact that, per capita, we produce relatively few features each year and are heavily reliant on federal and state funding and the Producer Offset.

Soto says he could not have made The Gateway without the Producer Offset, noting, “We have great film incentives in this country, we just need to make more genre films. I also think this is an area where State funding bodies need to be far more proactive.”

Follows wryly observes: “The UK is the world’s most thrilling film nation – who knew? So while the rest of the world may see Brits as sedate, tea-drinking talkers, their film output contains the highest percentage of thrillers of all major film-producing nations.”