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Fear Is:

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Written by Tito Ambyo


Kicker

This is a kicker.

Fear is…

… everywhere.

Look around now and you can see fear lurking in all corners of the globe. The horror of living in 2016 is all too real: multiple notable terrorist attacks, police shootings, too many celebrity deaths to count, Zika, online predators, Brexit, creepy clowns, Pauline Hanson, race riots, Turkey’s failed coup, Donald Trump, Harambe. It’s overall been a rather fearful and odd year.

It almost feels like the world is wildly careening toward some kind of doomsday, perhaps due to occur sometime around the U.S. 2016 election.

But of course, let’s not let ourselves get too out of hand. Firstly, it hasn’t been _all_ doom and gloom in 2016. Some really cool things have happened too: world average life expectancy has increased by 6 years; child mortality is the lowest it’s ever been in human history; the hole in the ozone layer above the U.S. is apparently healing itself; viral videos of cats still exist. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, despite all the horror of the year, 2016 was obviously no where near as horrible as other times throughout history \- years like 1348, 1914, or even 1968.

It’s easy to be blinded by one’s own ego, too. To view the issues directly effecting us _now_ and _close to home_ as being of far greater direct importance than things which happened decades, sometimes centuries, ago.

But damned if the fabrics of life don’t have some explaining to do as to why 2016 has been so _particularly_ atrocious.

Perhaps it is because this specific kind of terror is contagious and spreads easily like wildfire via the Internet. Fear is fuel for the media and people like Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson \- they use scaremongering to tap into people’s common anxieties, exploiting fear to push racist or sexist agendas.

Perhaps it is because we are increasingly spending time in fantasy worlds \- virtual or online realities that rip us from the present and place us in the unchangeable past or indeterminable future. When we switch off our devices and return to reality, look around, what do we see? Is it no surprise we want to attach virtual reality googles to our heads, blinding us from reality so we can enter a make\-believe space of our wildest imagination? Our expectations for the future are all skewed, creating a swell of anxiety and fear for what’s to come.

The Internet is the perfect host for fear to take over and spread like a virus. Take, for example, the recent spate of creepy clown attacks. What started as an isolated case in Southern U.S.A. has quickly spread across to Australia, all in a matter of weeks. Two arrests have already been made on people terrorising others dressed in these ridiculous clown disguises. Call it a fad, trend, meme, or whatever \- one can’t help but worry for the sheer _boredom_ and _misdirected anger_ that would cause someone to act in such a way.

For this project, we will be looking at fear from a specifically Australian angle. Our country’s landscape is perfect for conjuring emotions and feelings of trepidation, caution and mystery. Countless Australian horror films, literature and music exploit this very unique, very ancient, very bewildering wilderness.

We will investigate what it is that filmmakers and writers find so alluring and frightful about the Australian landscape, what encourages them to use this space as a place of inspiration.

We will explore what ails people \- phobias, anxieties, trauma. The true terror that certain people experience inside them every single day and how the body reacts in such moments.

So continue on, if you dare, and engage in what _fear is…_

Fear is: a Warm, Sunny Day

One\-hundred and sixteen years ago, a group of school girls may or may not have gone missing at Hanging Rock in Victorias Macedon ranges.

Whether they did has almost ceased to matter, as their ghost story has been propelled through time by Lady Joan Lindsays literary mystery \- furthered by the decision to only release the final paranormal chapter three years after her death.

Her unresolvable fiction has developed into a feature film directed by Peter Weir, multiple conspiracies, radio adaptations, theatre productions and now a Foxtel TV drama to be aired in 2017.

But where did it start?

Hanging Rock is a geological formation known as a mamelon. It was created 6.25 million years ago when magma came through the earths surface and settled in the haunting construct we know today.

It is located within the Wurundjeri nations territory of the Kulin nation. It was significant to the Wurundjeri people who used it as a sacred place of male initiation until the last ceremony in 1851 \- 63 years after invasion.

The invasion of Australia shifted the way Hanging Rock was used, but it retained a poignant significance.

Amongst the things early european settlers brought across the ocean, was the ghosts of their homelands.

They needed a place for those ghosts to live, and so the harsh Australian landscape became the cathedrals and cemeteries of their former homes.

Hanging Rock is an eerie unapologetic place, the perfect location for a postcolonial ghost story.

The communication of fear has an indelible connection between storytelling and location, whether that location is physical or not.

Places such as Hanging Rock hold real world history and connotation that has been used by story\-tellers across the globe to strike a fear within audiences that is carried on well after the closing lines or credits. To the extent that the fictional story of Hanging Rock is believed to be true by many. Rangers from the reserve have even had pieces of the rock mailed back to them over the years, with those who took them convinced the pieces have brought them bad luck.

To understand why Lady Lindsays mystery has continued to be told in various mediums over the years, it is vital to understand Peter Wiers iconic take on it.

His 1975 film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, is arguably Australias first international hit film. Ironically, the rights to the film were purchased for a mere $100.

Shot through a lace covered lense, the film evokes a darker more sexual under tone than the penguin classic, however holds true to the Lady Lindsays bildungsroman plot.

The film has influenced many other artists, including Sofia Coppolas Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette.

The most amazing aspect of the story of Hanging Rock is its undying relevance. With themes of horror, femininity, paranormal gothic Australian literature, the cusp of sexuality and mystery \- like a Shakespeare \- it remains current in every adaptation.

The question however remains. Is it the rock itself, or the fear instilled by Lady Lindsay that has taken this old tale into the modern day?

We travelled to Hanging Rock in Victoria to find out how this location has created a campaign of fear that has been translated and re\-told countless times.

Joan a Beckett Weigall \(Later known as Lindsay\) was born in East St Kilda on the 16th November 1896. As a child she attended Clyde Girls Grammar School in East St Kilda, where she was first educated by a governess.

Previously known as Miss Weigall, her talent for the arts developed early. During her schooling years she proceeded to edit the school magazine and design the school crest, developing her skills which would later assist her in evolving into the playwright, essayist, and artist she later became. Her fascination with Hanging Rock began early, in 1919 she moved to Woodend which is situated close to Hanging Rock.

Miss Weigall was an independant woman with a strong belief in women’s rights, however, while she was living in London she fell in love, and a short six months after she married \(Sir\) Ernest Daryl Lindsay on none other than Valentine’s day, the 14th of February 1922.

Now known as Lady Lindsay, her focus was no longer on her art or her exhibitions, she had a new found and explored passion sitting cross legged in a drawing room, writing.

In the 1920s she contributed to newspapers and periodicals by writing short stories and articles, focusing primarily on art and artists where she could become quite brutal and personal in her reviews. Lindsay then started to dabble in the uncanny and chilling by first exploring unfinished plays where she eventually began the infamous Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Picnic at Hanging Rock was written by Lindsay in their Mornington Peninsula home which was purchased in 1925 where wartime staff shortages led Lady Lindsay to call herself a museum wife, working three days a week as her husband’s, Darryls, assistant.

The novel was written in 1967, evoking the glooming pillars that she had always had a fascination with, ever since childhood. Lindsay portrayed her double\-sided personality through her work, showing readers the romantic yet abrupt woman that she was.

Although Lindsay did not believe in time or dates, she had an infatuation with Valentines day. It was a date that was close to her, ironically, becoming the center of the famous novel Picnic at Hanging Rock \- leaving questions as to the meaning and themes embedded throughout.

Her fascination and disbelief of time came from mechanical watches. She believed time stopped around her, claiming watches would have to be reset as when she entered the room clocks would stop. This fascination was translated through Picnic at Hanging Rock where the teenagers were given time for eternity as they remain forever youthful. The parallel time dimension allows readers to step into the time portal, changing the perception of beauty and innocence within women reaching the cusp of sexuality.

Although having a power of character and personality, Lindsay was always attached to her husbands title and was never definitively acknowledged as an individual in her own right even though she was a feminist; this is also seen through her writing as themes of empowerment and young women began to appear.

Joan Lindsay was a subtle writer and although underlying themes appear throughout her writing, she endeavoured for readers to reach these conclusions on their own, however, the loss and retaining of innocence and eternal youth is one that cannot be ignored. Immortal youth, innocence, romance and girls being on the cusp of sexuality are undertones that were sewed throughout the novel highlighting some of the darkness and romance she had within her mind.

There are many hidden truths throughout the novel and in Lindsays mind, something happened to the missing children, however, it may not have been a reality. Regardless it was a truth for her and her storytelling. The geographic anomalies throughout the book can be related to the gothic architectural choice of locating the action at Hanging Rock, the eerie location can be seen as a parallel form of the themes presented.

The book later became a huge success, being translated into 9 different languages at the time, being most popular in French. The woman behind the horror injected darkness into the novel, withholding the last chapter until 3 years after her death.

We spoke with Cara\-Anne Simpson, Mornington Peninsula Regional Manager, at Mulberry Hill National Trust, to find out more about the woman who wrote cross legged in her drawing room. The investigation in some ways, creates more questions than answers but Cara\-Anne endeavours to shed some light into the chilling mystery.

Tom Wrights chilling adaptation of Joan Lindsays Picnic at Hanging Rock, debuted at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne and is proof of the storys maintained currency.

Directed by Matthew Lutton, the play features five actors who juggle multiple roles in order to heighten the non\-naturalism and parallel time perceptions that were underlying themes in Lindsays work.

The adaption plays with Lindsays infatuation with mystery, alienation and youthfulness and propels what has maintained a fear producing mystery, into the modern theatre scene. The play attempts to balance its retelling of Lindsay’s original text in a way that affirms the Australian cultural mythos while producing a fresh and relevant take on the nostalgic classic.

Despite there having been multiple adaptations of Picnic at Hanging Rock over the years, the Malthouse Production is successful in driving Lindsays intended fear symbolism and is an example of the the storys ongoing relevance to an Australian audience.

We spoke to actor Arielle Gray who played Sara in the Malthouse production. She provided us with some rare insight into the modern adaption of Joan Lindsays original novel.

Fear is: A Birth Right

What is the psychology behind fear?
Dr Jee Hyun Kim is a neuroscientist and the Laboratory Head at Melbourne University. Focusing on developmental psychology, Dr Kim has done research into how fears form and the role of memory association in creating fears.

As children, we are born without specific fears \- only the emotion of fear itself which is an intrinsic part of our survival. It is only through living, and gaining negative experiences that we begin to associate certain stimuli as dangerous.

Fear is interwoven with memory, and it’s our experiences that make us fearful, whether you had a terrible experience public speaking in adolescence, or your knees wobble when you reach a high floor in a tall building. Even a fear of heights, which seems natural to us all when peering over a ledge, is something acquired later on in development when we start to gain depth perception.

It may take years of conditioning to undo traumas picked up in childhood, and even longer for traumas picked up later in life.

We begin life as black slates, with no understanding of the world around us, yet we are somehow more fearful the day we die.

Fear is: Fame

VCA graduate and filmmaker James Carroll has dedicated the last two years of studying to condensing an endless stream of ideas into a 10 minute short film.

Neo\-realistic psychological horror film _Lola_ tells the story of a famous mother and daughter duo whose once\-loving relationship is marred, before being completely obliterated, by the desire for celebrity.

On the final day of filming, I spoke to a sleep deprived yet manically energetic Carroll in a shoe\-box of a room at the VCA in Melbourne’s South Bank. His sheer love and dedication to the ambitious production was tangible, and only seconds into our conversation it became clear _Lola_ was never going to be a regular slasher horror film.

Intentionally unlike Australian horror film predecessors such as _Wolf Creek_, _Lola_ pulls aesthetic inspiration from German Expressionism and Old Hollywood glamour.

The combination of Fritz Lang\-esque jagged lines and dark shadows on the set contrast with the softer touches of art deco martini glasses and red velvet draped tables. It’s a juxtaposition Carroll said runs deep throughout the entire production, with glamour being used to make fear more palatable.

The distillation of beauty and the horrific reaches its most potent in one of the final scenes of the film, where Lola stabs herself and bleeds “the blood of the world”.

Images like these, combined with an “extreme” soundtrack, are what Carroll believes will send a thrill down the audiences’ spine.

But those who allow themselves to explore the deeper themes of the film will be terrified by the familiarity of the brutal destruction of a mother/daughter relationship, Carrol said.

These are all hypothetical reactions, though, and there are no guarantees of whether viewers will be scared, or even like the film.

There are good signs in the social media hype around the film, and the fact a pre\-production fundraising campaign surpassed its target by more than $1,000.

But, again, no guarantees.

The uncertainty of success and the risk of failure is what the young director said scares him the most.

For now, Caroll’s complex creation of fear is done.

_Lola_ will spend three months in the editing room, a period where the director’s celluloid ambitions and subsequent anxieties will be prolonged, until the film’s release in December.

Fear is: Heights

Theorists have always struggled to come to a uniform decision on what our fundamental emotions are. Some say we only have two, some say there are more than ten.

And even though theorists disagree, most of them include an emotion we call fear at the beginning of their list.

Fear is one of the most important reasons why we, humans, are still here.
Fear triggers behavioural responses that serve survival. We are afraid, so we flee, we hide, we fight to protect ourselves. If it wasnt for fear, the human race would already be extinct.

The fear we are referring to is appropriate, rational fear. But there is another kind of fear. Abnormal, unwarranted, persistent, disabling. This fear is called a phobia.

Fear is: Family Violence

Vincent Shin, 30, is a family violence survivor. For 17 years he was subjected to physical and emotional abuse from his father. For victims of domestic violence fear is constant, unyielding, and ever present.

But speaking out and asking for help is not that simple.

When teachers asked Vincent about his bruises he was too afraid to tell the truth.

Renee Dowling, former social worker at the Office of Public Prosecution says there is no escaping family violence.

“There is never really relaxing because it’s always knowing and waiting: when is he going to turn? When is he going to start?” She says.

The impacts of domestic violence as a child can manifest in many ways, long after the threat has diminished.

Thirteen years ago Vincent’s father walked out on him and his family. Although the physical abuse may have ended the psychological scars remain.

Counsellor and hypnotherapist Jane Burns says these fears can develop into phobias but she stresses they are not the same thing. One is rational, the other irrational, although the latter is often rooted within the former.

Burns says she’s had clients unable to close their eyes that on further investigation stemmed from a history of domestic violence.

Vincent can relate.

Domestic violence is something survivors will always carry with them; however, the fears it leaves behind can be treated.

For the first time in years, Vincent was free. “I don’t know what it was….sort of escaping reality….No one knows my past, no one knows my baggage…. I was just who I wanted to be”

Back home, some of the scars still remain. Vincent says he doesn’t talk to his sister about their childhood for fear of what she might reveal.

But family has been instrumental in moving on.

“I am still very close with my mum and my sister,” Vincent says. “My sister just had a baby, it has brought the family much closer together. He is a beautiful little boy”

Since his father left, things have definitely changed a lot for Vincent.

_Vincent Shin is Australia’s first school lawyer. He works at The Grange College, in Hoppers Crossing. As a part of the West Justice program he is responsible for providing legal support to students and their families, some in situations just like his._

About the author

Tito Ambyo