Australian DVD cover
|Directed by||Brian Trenchard-Smith|
|Produced by||Barbi Taylor|
|Written by||Everett De Roche|
|Starring||Henry Thomas |
|Music by||Brian May|
|Cinematography||John R. McLean|
|Edited by||Brian Kavanagh|
Middle Reef Productions
|Distributed by||UAA Films (theatrical) |
Miramax Films (USA theatrical)
|Box office||A $171,000|
An American boy, Cody (Thomas), whose parents have died, lives in Australia with his guardian, Gaza. Cody is very imaginative, inventive, and inquisitive. He builds things in his garage, including a railbike which he uses to get around. Cody comes across some strange events happening in Devil's Knob national park associated with an Aboriginal myth about "frog Dreamings" and Bunyips. Cody tries to investigate. The occurrences revolve around a pond where a monster the locals call "Donkegin" supposedly lives. Another myth explored by the children is the story of the Kurdaitcha Man who acts as a sort of Australian version of the Boogey Man as well as a supernatural judge who deals out punishment. The children are told that he punishes any wrongs done according to the laws of the ancient Aborigines including harm to one another, murder of animals without need for food, and destroying the environment (his appearance being most notable according to myth when white men came). The Kurdaitcha Man supposedly wanders the countryside, specifically at night, and wears shoes made of Emu feathers in order to cover any tracks.
After Cody witnesses the centre of the pond erupting in bubbles, he discovers the desiccated body of a homeless man, Neville, in a tent nearby. The local police investigate but determine only that Neville likely died of a heart attack. Determined to pursue the mystery of the pond himself, Cody fashions a makeshift diving suit and proceeds to explore the murky bottom, but never comes back up. Thinking that he has drowned, the townsfolk decide to drain the pond to recover his body. However, before they can finish, Cody's friend Wendy observes an air toy in Cody's aquarium, and a book on old mining equipment, and realising Cody may be alive, rallies aid to send a diver team into the pond. The diving team attempts to locate Cody and bring him an oxygen tank, but before they have a chance, the pond begins to bubble and seethe once more. Donkegin emerges with Cody in its jaws and raises its head in an unearthly cry, reminiscent of old, rusted metal. One of the officials recognizes the shape as lights penetrate the weeds and algae that cover Donkegin, giving it its monstrous appearance.
They discover that Donkegin is in fact an old Donkey engine or a type of excavator or steam-shovel used in construction work years ago, and the pond is in fact a flooded quarry. It is also revealed that many items have accumulated at the bottom of the pond including a car, a bicycle, oil drums, and other assorted junk. The locals manage to get Cody out and to safety and dispel the myth of the monster in the pond. The myth of the Kurdaitcha Man is further explored when Cody believes he sees him in a dream-like state putting the Donkey-Engine back into the pond. The Kurdaitcha Man is seen as an older Aboriginal man with the feather shoes.
The film ends with the mystery unfolded and Cody alongside his friends safe and sound with the Kurdaitcha Man and Donkegin still 'living' and active in their minds.
The film was originally directed by Russell Hagg. However the producer and writer were not satisfied with progress and tracked down Brian Trenchard-Smith who had just finished an episode of Five Mile Creek and asked him to take over. Trenchard-Smith liked the script and was interested in working with Henry Thomas, so he accepted.
The film goes under several alternate titles, including The Go-Kids in the UK, The Quest in the US, The Spirit Chaser in Germany, Fighting Spirits in Finland and The Mystery of the Dark Lake in Italy.
Glenn Dunks of sbs.com.au commented "comparable to the likes of Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, and The Monster Squad, Trenchard-Smith's film harkens back to a time before most kids' films weren't just computer-generated."
(1986 AFI Awards)
|Best Editing||Brian Kavanagh||Won|
|Best Original Music Score||Brian May||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Craig Carter||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Jon Dowding||Nominated|
- Paul Harris, "Frog Dreaming", Australian Film 1978-1992, Oxford Uni Press, 1993 p198
- Brian Jones, 'A Horse for all courses', Cinema Papers, March 1986 p 28
- FIx-galleria | The Spirit Chaser - Henkien taistelu (1986)
- Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office