Some consider the concept of horror to be violent and bloody chaos, and therefore make rigid judgements and expectations about just what constitutes a film to be labelled with the term, but in my experience, fear is a very individual, sometimes abstract and completely irrational response to anything that makes us uncomfortable, or threatened either physically or subconsciously, and any film that has that power of provocation, fits in the genre quite nicely in my oh, so humble opinion.
Murder is indeed, a terrible act, with far reaching consequences, but for me the thought of someone going missing is far more disturbing. Every ending needs closure, and disappearances are such a harrowing experience, and with no clues, evidence or answers, you could spend every day of your life asking a question that no one can give you a response to but the one person who isn’t there.
Every question should have a logical and satisfactory answer … even if the answer is just plain horrifying.
Based on a book by Joan Lindsay, Peter ‘Witness’ Weir’s film is the story of an outing into the bush, of young Australian college girls and their teachers on a sunny Valentine’s Day in 1900. After having a lazy picnic and unsurprisingly getting tired of braiding one another’s hair, four girls decide to explore the ancient and dangerously eponymous Hanging Rock. Good idea? Of course it isn’t. The pan pipe music that plays as they ascend should tell you something is amiss.
Undoubtedly beautiful, albeit excruciatingly slow in parts, the mysterious Picnic at Hanging Rock leaves you with more questions than answers, while being tantalisingly coy with the visual happenings on screen. What occurs off screen however, is mesmerising enough to keep your attention to the very chilling ending, and leaves you with a sense of wondering that will no doubt irritate and yet strangely satisfy you in equal measure.
Even after wading through the mire of symbolism, beautiful girls and wild landscapes, it’s easy to understand why Weir’s film seems to have such an impact on audiences to this day. Love or loathe it’s repressed sexuality and fairytale romanticism, it is one of the eeriest films I have ever seen and creates a genuine sense of unease for the viewer throughout, and the echoes of influence can be seen in films such as The Virgin Suicides and even The Blair Witch Project.
Visually powerful and haunting in such an innocuous way, it is, like it or not, a cult classic in every essence of the term, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the anticipation of something unknown can be just as scary as encountering it.