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Kadaicha (1988) is an Australian film about a group of teenagers being terrorized by a vengeful Aboriginal spirit. Comparisons to A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) and Poltergeist (1982) are apt given the content and thematic similarities that overlap between all three films. Like Poltergeist the film Kadaicha represents a reckoning with an imperial past. What Kadaicha takes from A Nightmare On Elm Street is its supernatural component that only strikes during dreams.

Unfortunately Kadaicha is no more nuanced in its post-colonial reckoning than its inspiration Poltergeist. Neither film finds the time to give Indigenous People a real voice or character to represent them. Kadaicha does feature an Aboriginal Australian character (Steve Dodd) but he only exists as the archetypal shaman-type. Essentially all Dodd does in Kadaicha is espouse exposition in one scene and then perform a kind of exorcism in another.

Kadaicha fares better as a riff on A Nightmare On Elm Street. Kadaicha has some pretty inventive death scenes and the dream sequences are effective. Given the low budget of the production the dream sequences have to rely on the eerie ambience of shadowy caves and tunnels. This proves the greatest asset of the film; delivering a few truly memorable moments as teenagers come face to face with a skeletal Kadaicha (or holy man).

When all is said and done Kadaicha is a modest film that could have been better. As a “folk horror” film it works but represents an average entry into the genre. Poor pacing and its straight to video budget keep the film from the greatness that it sometimes suggests.