Firebite review – Warwick Thornton’s exhilarating vampire series will have you hooked | Australian television

It’s a regular function of TV exhibits – notably ones based mostly in far-flung areas – to insert drone pictures close to the start to offer a geographical overview. The exhilaratingly totally different eight-part vampire series Firebite, co-created by Warwick Thornton and Brendan Fletcher, contains such pictures, with the numerous caveat that no quantity of overhead photos can correctly contextualise the placement the place it was filmed: a city on the sting of existence, located within the “darkish coronary heart” of Australia, synonymous by advantage of its personal peculiar existence with issues which are hidden and hid.

That is the South Australian city of Coober Pedy, a totally uncommon neck of the woods – effectively, stretch of the desert – the place residents reside beneath the floor to flee the blistering warmth, in subterranean abodes constructed by hollowing out house within the hills. Rebadged as “Opal Metropolis” within the present, it appears to be like from above slightly like Mars, its barren sunbaked floor pockmarked by crater-like holes. A neighborhood Indigenous lady warns a bunch of youngsters within the first episode to not go too shut to those holes as a result of they’ll “gobble you up”.

Extra regarding than the holes, nonetheless, are the monsters dwelling beneath the floor. As one character places it: “They’ve been right here for hundreds of years, and so they lastly discovered the right place to reside.” By “they” she is after all referring to these with pallid complexions, fanged tooth and relatively lengthy life spans, who traditionally may be killed by wood stakes. On this refreshingly totally different take, which mixes small reinventions with reframed political views, they will also be taken down by a boomerang to the guts.

For Firebite protagonist Tyson (a charmingly curt Rob Collins) and his adopted daughter Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) the stakes, so to talk, should not simply private however cultural and political, as they’re to all Indigenous Australians throughout the narrative world. We study that vampires arrived within the nation on the primary fleet and started murdering Aboriginal individuals and seizing their land. A struggle between the blood suckers and black vampire hunters, dubbed “blood hunters”, has raged ever since, the latter having efficiently eradicated the entire former bar one.

He’s “The King” (a seething, creepy Callan Mulvey) who has arrived in Opal Metropolis for the plain causes – it being the vampire’s equal of a postcard paradise or dust-clogged Backyard of Eden, conveniently devoid of that annoying phenomenon often known as “daylight”. The King’s arrival upends a comparatively snug routine – however slightly blood and carnage – for Tyson and Shanika, who patrol the floor and preserve the job of “maintaining this mob secure”, present on the edge of two worlds, type of in the neighborhood and type of not.

Directed by Fletcher, Tony Krawitz and Thornton, the present stays above the floor for some time, organising the human characters with simply sufficient glimpses of the ghouls to remind us they’re round and bearing fangs. Thornton is acquainted with filming on this land, having shot a 20-minute brief from 2005 there titled The Previous Man and the Inland Sea.

Thornton et al go for some huge photos: the signal for Opal Metropolis as an illustration casts a protracted shadow over the burnt brown desert, screaming “cinematic”. However largely Firebite seems to have been designed to keep away from trying stunning, even in a country rough-hewn approach, and has a boxed-in relatively than expansive look. This isn’t a grand, eye-watering manufacturing like Candy Nation or one which finds visible enjoyment of small components, like Thornton’s earlier TV series The Seashore.

Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) and Tyson (Rob Collins) roam the tunnels beneath the surface of Opal City.
Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) and Tyson (Rob Collins) roam the tunnels beneath the floor of Opal Metropolis. {Photograph}: Ian Routledge/AMC+

Firebite has a rocky, grungy really feel, with dim lighting and a scuzzy junkyard texture reflecting the vitality of a present that comes throughout as effortlessly cool and interesting, and by no means tries too laborious. That effortlessness additionally comes by within the performances and the dialogue, each at instances unexpectedly oscillating into splashes of humour. Take as an illustration an change within the second episode (this review encapsulates the primary three) between Tyson and a love curiosity, who reacts to his presentation of flowers at her door by asking: “The place are these from, servo?” To which he responds: “Nup, cemetery.”

Firebite inserts a couple of of what would possibly loosely be thought-about a “cliffhanger”, nevertheless it additionally has a behavior of taking us to locations the place the motion isn’t, usually extra involved with context and drama than violent confrontation. It’s unattainable to know, three episodes in, whether or not the present will in the end resolve conventionally or take us someplace surprising. It has an off-kilter tone and tempo that’s robust to second-guess – as if, like residents of Opal Metropolis or Coober Pedy, the circadian rhythm of its creators has been thrown out of whack.

At this level, nonetheless, two issues are sure. One: I’m hooked. And two: when style storytelling mixes with Indigenous views thrilling issues occur, as we have seen lately within the neo-western Thriller Highway, the superhero sci-fi Cleverman, and – exterior Australia – the Oklahoma-set Native American comedy Reservation Canines. All these productions have a powerful sense of place, however Firebite is one thing else. You wouldn’t need each new present to be shot in Coober Pedy – however rattling, it really works for this one.

Firebite premieres on 16 December on AMC+.

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