Disturbing psychological thriller. That is the description, but why? A teacher deep in the arid Australian outback gets sidetracked in a mining town on the way to Sydney - but there is no danger here. In a thriller, the hero is waylaid by thieves, attacked by psychopaths, or unforgiving monsters of nature. The only assault on him is by congenial locals who all say "You new to the Yabba?" before offering drink after drink. It is offensive not to have a drink with a mate. Who is a mate? Everyone. A policeman shows him around. He has nothing else to do, there is no crime.
The teacher goes to gamble, and in that room filled with cash, there is only the honor system. Nobody takes more than their due. And he loses all his money.
Have a drink. In this movie, there is no antagonist. Except the hero. He is learned, urbane, well read, and thoughtful. And he is a moral blank. There is where the spiral occurs. And drinks with mates turn into nights and days, and nights. New to the Yabba? Not anymore.
There are scenes of animal cruelty which are, oddly, the kindest scenes the director could offer of the regular kangaroo slaughters in the outback. The crew sabotaged their own lighting to get the professional hunters to call it a night as their drunken shooting left hundreds of injured kangaroos in agony, anything to get them to stop.
Nothing destroys our hero in Wake in Fright. He is a man adrift from the start, kept on course by a nice suit and the books that give him guidance. Interesting how quickly one is lost at sea without a compass, tossed into the waves on a whim.