An original, indigenous take on the vampire genre tears up the outback in a fresh new series starring Rob Collins.

“Eyes to the ground…”

When the First Fleet came to Australia in 1788 they brought with them in their ship’s hull vampires, who grew a taste for Blackfella blood -who knew? Such is the playful premise of Firebite, a new and creative take on the genre.

The series by Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah, Sweet Country) and Brendan Fletcher (Mad Bastards) is set in Opal City, a dusty, fictional spin on Coober Pedy, known for its underground homes and opal mining.

Thornton and Fletcher have cleverly repurposed such holes as vampire lairs, where the undead rise above ground to feast on the blood of indigenous residents.

If that’s a comment on invasion -and the story suggests it is- then Tyson Walker (Rob Collins) is here to defend his turf and send those suckers back to oblivion. Walker is a renegade vampire hunter who works above ground with his adopted daughter, Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan).

“Do your job and don’t bring it here that’s our deal,” local elder Aunty Maria (Tessa Rose) tells him.

Tyson is a tough pest controller, ready to strike vampires down with brute force or even a boomerang to the heart, but he reminds Shanika to keep “eyes to the ground” -ready for any spontaneous attack from below.

But a vampire king Josiah (Callan Mulvey) has recently arrived in town from an Adelaide bus and will prove far more resistant.

There’s also a “blood hunter” Jalingbirri (Kelton Pell) who has the strength and experience to fight the vampires below surface. There’s also Kitty (Ngaire Pigram), who shares romantic history with Tyson, and UK barmaid Eleona (Yael Stone).

But while Tyson is trying his best to keep the vampires down, there are pressures on the homefront, especially around Shanika’s schooling and an impending visit from Child Protection.

“Who gives a shit about child protection? We’ve got bigger problems,” he mutters.

Apparently 230 years of them….

Directors Thornton & Fletcher, joined by Tony Krawtiz, adopt a kind of Mad Max-meets-vampires world here, through blackfella eyes. The corrugated iron setting is distinctively outback Australia, with magical drone shots capturing the red dirt ground, potted with holes and dirt mounds like a war zone.

A beat-up car that has probably seen better days shooting roos tears up the landscape in its pursuit of vampires. You get a real sense that it’s the law of the land that rules here. Tyson does what it takes to keep his community safe.

In the lead role Rob Collins is defiant, heroic and handsome, flashing a smile or wielding a weapon to smite the enemy. Callan Mulvey, in yet another sexy villain role, is silent and pallid as the vampire king.

The visuals, joined by a guitar soundtrack, are one of the strongest features of this very original concept, although sometimes it can be difficult to decipher mumbled dialogue (it may have been a mixing issue with the preview).

It wouldn’t be a vampire tale without a minimum of horror and gore, there’s just enough to tick that box each episode.

At times, Firebite is positively cinematic and, in a genre that has seen almost every idea exhausted, manages to bring something fresh to the table.

Firebite begins Thursday December 16 on AMC+ (available in Australia on Apple TV app and Prime Video Channels).

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