Follow TV Tropes


Film / Evil Angels

Go To

Evil Angels (released as A Cry in the Dark outside Australia and New Zealand) is a 1988 Australian film based on the 1985 book of the same name by John Bryson, in turn based on the true story of the disappearance and death of Azaria Chamberlain in August 1980. Her mother, Alice Lynne "Lindy" Chamberlain, maintained that she had been taken by a dingo who had been spotted in their campsite, but her story was widely disbelieved by the public and the media, leading to her conviction for murder in 1982. She was released in 1986 after corroborating evidence was found.

The film stars Meryl Streep and Sam Neill as Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, with a large supporting cast including Bruce Myles as Crown Prosecutor Ian Barker, Neil Fitzpatrick as the Chamberlains' QC John Phillips, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell as Justice James Muirhead, Nick Tate as Detective Graeme Charlwood, Frankie J Holden and John Howard as reporters Leslie Thompson and Lyle Morris, and an early appearance by David Hoflin as Aidan Chamberlain. It was written and directed by Fred Schepisi, co-written by Robert Caswell, and produced by Verity Lambert. The film earned Streep an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, as well as the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.


Evil Angels provides examples of

  • Acceptable Religious Targets: Invoked with the Chamberlains being Seventh-day Adventists, leading to false allegations about the church being a cult and Azaria's death being some kind of ritual killing.
  • Based on a True Story: And one that was technically still ongoing during production, as the Chamberlains were acquitted by the Supreme Court just two months before the film was released.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lindy is released after new evidence is found and the family are reunited (albeit temporarily, though the filmmakers didn't know that yet), but their daughter is still dead, they can never get back the three years Lindy was in prison, and the media may never completely leave them alone.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: The film is heavily critical of the media's role in keeping the story alive over the years, and repeatedly cuts away to groups of random citizens discussing the case as it develops.
  • Advertisement:
  • Conviction by Contradiction: Discussed in the press room with regard to Azaria's matinee jacket.
    Mary: What's so important about this matinee jacket?
    Lyle: It explains the lack of saliva on the jump suit, Mary.
    Leslie: No, you're missing the point. If he can prove she's lying about the matinee jacket, she could be lying about the rest. If she's lying, she's guilty.
  • Gossip Evolution: The stories about why Lindy is supposed to have killed her daughter escalate in this manner. As Lindy's father puts it, "A lie goes 'round the world while truth's still putting its boots on."
  • Happily Married: Michael and Lindy at the start of the film. It doesn't last.
  • Incriminating Indifference: How Lindy's Heroic BSoD reaction to her daughter's death was interpreted by many.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...:
    • Lindy's summary of how the murder she's accused of would have to have played out:
      Lindy: They must be cracked! Nobody's gonna believe that line of bull. Let me get this straight. In ten minutes, I'm supposed to have taken the baby back to the tent, put her down, put on my tracksuit pants, right? Then carted her off to the car, and cut her throat, cut her head off, with the nail scissors mind you, stuffed her body in the camera bag - have you seen the size of that, by the way? And I hurry up and clean up the blood out of the car, and then picked up a can of baked beans because Aidan, who's been here, presumably, all the time, watching, I suppose, is still hungry. So I take him back to the tent and take off my tracksuit pants and sprinkle blood - my own baby's blood - round the tent, and on Reagan. And then... When do I make the little dingo tracks round the tent? Round that time, I suppose. Then we have a happy race back to the barbecue as if nothing had happened.
      Lawyer: It sounds preposterous, but that is the Crown's case.
    • In turn, Mr. Barker's summary of the defence case, going by the evidence as he then understood it:
      Barker: Now, what is this dingo supposed to have done? It managed, if her story is true, to kill the baby in the bassinet, drag it from the basket, shake her head vigorously at the entrance to the tent, then carry her off in such a way that left virtually no clues in the tent in the way of blood or hairs or anything else. It left no blood or drag marks at the entrance to the tent. It was able to pass by the child's mother, in full view, without disclosing or revealing it was carrying a baby. It managed to kill the child, with all the buttons of the jump suit done up, and then, if you accept Professor Cameron, it buried the body, having undone one top button. So all in all, ladies and gentlemen, it was not only a dextrous dingo, it was a very tidy dingo.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Lindy is convicted of murder based on insufficient evidence (much of which would later be discredited due to Science Marches On) and rumours, despite the prosecution's failure to present a motive. Michael was convicted of accessory after the fact, though he is given a suspended sentence to ensure their kids don't lose both parents.
  • Oh, Crap!: Lindy as she approaches the tent and sees the dingo coming out.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Justice Denis Barritt (who presides over the first coroner's inquest) and Justice James Muirhead (who presides over the murder trial), both of whom come across as sympathetic to the family and critical of the rumour mill surrounding them, though the latter of course does sentence her to life when she's found guilty.
  • Smoking Gun: Lindy maintains that Azaria's missing matinee jacket explains the lack of dingo saliva on her other clothing. Once the jacket is found, she is released in a matter of days.
  • The Stoic: Lindy evolves into this as the investigation and media persecution drags on, which helps feed the public image of her as a heartless killer.
    Lindy: I'm told, "Don't talk like you normally talk. Watch how you hold your mouth. You look too sour and crabby. Don't get angry. Don't ask too many questions, or they think you're trying to be smart. And never, never, never laugh or you're an uncaring bitch." Well, I can't cry to order, and I won't be squashed into some dumb act for the public... or for you.