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Why cult classic Wake in Fright is the perfect Halloween movie

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Drafthouse Films

Filmmaker Craig Macneill directed 2015’s intense, unforgettable serial killer tale The Boy, about a lonely child with a seriously damaged psyche. More recently, he has overseen Syfy’s new horror show Channel Zero: Candle Cove, which premieres Tuesday and concerns one man’s obsessive recollections of a mysterious children’s television program from the 1980s, and his suspicions about the role it might have played in a series of nightmarish events from his childhood.

For his pick of the best movie to watch over Halloween, Macneill has chosen 1971’s Australian-set film Wake in Fright which, if not usually described as a horror film, is arguably more terrifying than any number of masked killer movies or supernatural yarns. Directed by Ted Kotcheff, the film tracks the moral degradation of a schoolteacher (Gary Bond) as he loses himself (or, maybe, finds himself) in a booze-drenched Outback town.

Wake in Fright has haunted me for years,” says Macneill. “It’s such an unsettling journey through both physical and psychological landscapes. The opening shot — a 360-degree pan of a lonely, desolate landscape — eases us into a horrifying characterization of isolation in the Australian outback. The film really gets under your skin and sticks with you long after you view it.”

Channel Zero: Candle Cove premieres on Syfy at 9 p.m. ET. You can see trailers for the show and for Wake in Fright below.

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