Debuting today on AMC+ is an outstanding pulpy and fun vampire drama made in South Australia. If this were to debut on Netflix, it'd be the hot new thing. Being on new streamer AMC+, it has a serious need for word of mouth.
It's yet another great series added to AMC+. Additions like Firebite that are helping to make the case for AMC+ as a must-have service. But good luck trying to access it. While in the US there is a dedicated app, in other territories like Australia it is only available as an add-on through the Apple TV+ and Amazon Channels apps.
There’s a type of film that one thinks about when you hear about an ‘Australian movie’. They’re often fairly straight dramas about salt-of-the earth characters and explore their relationship to the land. When I think about the two films director Warwick Thornton has made, they very much fit that idea.
But that’s not what Warwick Thornton has made with Firebite - this is a genre heavy vampire hunting show that feels like a throwback to Australian 70s era Ozploitation classics. And struth mate, it’s a fuckin’ cracker.
As the mythology of the show has it, when the Brits set out to colonise Australia, they sent a group of vampires out to take care of the local indigenous population. Black Australia fought back and got control of the vampires, but there’s still a small colony of them living in the opal mines of Cooper Pedy in regional South Australia.
Like all good monster stories, there’s an allegorical idea at the core of the show. The Vampires of Firebite are clearly a metaphor for the smallpox outbreak that devastated the First Peoples of Australia when the Brits arrived. Between 50-70% of the Aboriginal population died within the first two years.
Our hero in the show is an indigenous amateur vampire hunter named Tyson. He’s working for a small indigenous community as their dark knight - the guy who is sent out by elders in the town to keep everyone safe while they just get about their lives, ignorant of the hero who protects them all. Tyson is also a bit of an unpleasant dickhead who rubs everyone the wrong way.
His sidekick is teenage girl Shanika. Tyson is her legal guardian and a terrible role model. She’s whip smart, but lets her temper and passion get the better of her. You will see her expelled from school in the first two episodes of the show.
The arrival of a so-called Vampire King (played by Callan Mulvey AKA Drazic from Heartbreak High) intensifies the fight as he rallies the local vampire colony. This, in turn leads to the arrival of an Aboriginal Blood Hunter - these guys actually know what they are doing when it comes to fighting vampires and have been tasked with keeping Indigenous Australia safe.
I think it is easy to be dismissive of a lot of Australian cinema. So much of it is produced without much of a concern for the commercial realities of the form. But this is a show that is built to be an entertaining, populist thrill-ride.
This is a show that looks gorgeous with incredible location shooting around Cooper Pedy, the cast are all hugely engaging. You haven’t seen an Aussie TV show like this before. And even better than just being unique, it’s actually really good.
It’s the Great Australian Bite.
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What's next? Tomorrow.