Carnifex author alleges new film and game were produced without rights

Indie author Matthew J. Barbeler has alleged upcoming film and video game Carnifex infringes on his copyright.
australian game mighty kingdom carnifex barbeler

Independent author Matthew J. Barbeler has alleged the upcoming film Carnifex, which is also being adapted into a video game by South Australian developer Mighty Kingdom, is an unlicensed work that takes direct inspiration from his original property – a horror novel also titled Carnifex, released in 2016. The producers of Carnifex (the film) strenuously deny these claims.

Barbeler’s Carnifex is a horror story set in the Australian outback, described as Jurassic Park meets Wolf Creek. In the novel, a team of five tourists go exploring in bushland, only to stumble ‘into the hunting grounds of a predator long thought extinct.’

The plot of the film reads quite similarly: ‘An aspiring documentarian and two conservationists who venture into the outback to record the animals displaced by bushfires … discover a terrifying new species.’

Both horror tales follow a group wandering the Australian outback, only to discover a terrifying creature that forces them into a battle for survival.

‘I did NOT sell the rights to my Australian Horror novel Carnifex,’ Matthew J. Barbeler announced on Twitter, in response to the South Australian Film Corporation launching the first trailer for the film. ‘The IMDb page for the movie literally mentions my book. That means someone had to know about the link, and have IMDb approve the entry … There’s far too much in common for this to be coincidence.’

As Barbeler points out, there is a direct link to his novel in the film’s IMDb page, which mentions the book is ‘unrelated’, but features similar themes.

Game developer Mighty Kingdom announced a major narrative-driven adaptation of the Carnifex film in February 2023. The game is set to be a rare Australian horror game, and is currently due to be launched during the FY23 window – before June 2023. It’s unknown if recent layoffs at the company, or the allegations of copyright infringement, will impact this release.

According to Barbeler, he has an appointment with an IP lawyer in future, who will likely advise him on next steps and whether the upcoming Carnifex film is similar enough to his original project to warrant a deeper investigation.

The producers of Carnifex denied any infringement on Barbeler’s work:

‘No one connected with the “Carnifex” film had any knowledge of Mr. Barbeler’s book, or the author himself prior to the commencement of the production of the film,’ a representative for the film told ScreenHub.

‘The Thylacoleo Carnifex is in the public domain and is not an original creature concept, as are the many variations of Shark stories that have been told.  The word “Carnifex” comes from the Latin meaning ‘butcher’ or ‘maker of meat’.  This word is not protected by copyright.

‘As part of the production’s legal process they conduct extensive title searches and the film is deemed clear to use the title. 

‘The Producers have advised that any groundless and unsubstantiated claims of copyright infringement will be strenuously pursued to the full extent of the law.’

This article has been updated since its original publication to include statements from the producers of the Carnifex film.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.