Australian writer/director Andrew Traucki is a specialist when it comes to the terror-of-nature subgenre. His first two survival thrillers turned popular Australian tourist destinations into convincingly deadly locales. Black Water (2007) followed a gargantuan crocodile hunting humans in the mangrove swamps of Northern Australia, while his second film, The Reef (2010), had a great white shark stalk a capsized crew along the Great Barrier Reef. His third feature – the Indonesian-set The Jungle – sticks to the template of the natural environment, but this time round the creature is far more mysterious.
“I was looking for another true event to base a film upon but I kept on coming across shape shifters and werewolf stories, which I found interesting, so in the end I decided to go with that,” says Traucki on the ominous antagonist at the heart of The Jungle.
A 'found footage' horror movie, The Jungle concerns big cat conservationist Larry Black (Rupert Reid; Blue Heelers, The Matrix Reloaded), and his filmmaker brother Ben (played by Traucki himself) who explore the Indonesian jungle in the hope of finding and documenting the rare, endangered Javan Leopard. Delving deeper into the forest, they slowly come to realise they are being stalked by a deadly unseen predator.
“Coverage has to be believable as [does] the cameraman's point of view so there's no use of cutaways to build tension and fear,” says Traucki about the genre's format. “Also there's no score so you can't use music to build suspense, which is vital for thrillers, so in lots of ways this film was a particular challenge to me,” he adds.
Traucki reveals improvisation and spontaneity were crucial elements toward bridging believability. “It's pretty difficult. Today's audiences are very film literate so it's hard to come up with something that's new, fresh, thrilling and engaging,” he explains. “These [survival] stories appeal to me because I like to put myself in the position of the character and try to imagine what I would do in this situation.”
Traucki doesn't make it any easier on himself when it comes to the filming situation either. While partially shot in Queensland's Byron Bay, The Jungle also filmed for real in the Indonesian jungle. “All my shoots have been physically difficult,” he admits. “In Black Water we were in a swamp, for The Reef in the ocean and now we're in the jungle. I think it's time I made an indoor drama!” he jokes. “The night shots were difficult, you can get so easily lost out in the jungle at night – it's so disorientating and it did rain for a week turning everything to mud and sludge.”
The Jungle benefited from a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo for the film's post-production stage. "The money we raised bought us more editing time, also ensuring that our sound design was spooky and tense and gave us a great colour grade to really bring the forest alive," reflects Traucki. “It's very gratify and rewarding when you see people prepared to come forward and support you.”
The Jungle has a tentative release date of July/August 2013. For more information on the film visit the official Facebook page.