The Coroner has temporarily left the building. Old Sawbones Fure took one look at the 8 Films To Die For in this year’s After Dark Horrorfest and flew into an immediate rage. He marched right in to Executive Editor Neil Miller’s office (bypassing a proper check-in with the secretary, Cole Abiaus) and threw three of the titles onto the desk. “These are foreign films,” he snarled, “You know I don’t watch movies when I can’t understand the language!” Long story short, Miller and Abiaus assuaged Fure’s anger with martinis and a massage (respectively) and then assigned the British, Australian, and Korean films to yours truly.
Dying Breed is the latest in a long string of Australian thrillers illustrating the simple truth that rural Australians want to kill you. Nina and Matt are heading into the wilds of Tasmania (an island of the south-eastern coast of Australia) to search for evidence of living Tasmanian tigers. The quest is a personal one for Nina as her sister apparently went mad and died eight years prior while on a similar journey. Matt convinces his friend Jack to join them, and Jack brings along his current girlfriend, Rebecca. Running parallel to the story about extinct Tasmanian tigers is the legend of The Pieman, Alexander Pearce. He was a convicted cannibal who escaped into the Tasmanian wilds in the early 1800’s. The modern-day quartet is searching for living relatives of the supposedly extinct tigers, but it may be The Pieman’s descendants that find them first…
Seven on-screen murders, a couple suicides, and a puppy gets smashed (and I don’t mean intoxicated)
Almost all of the deaths are due to extreme head/neck violence. Throats are torn out and sliced, necks are snapped and severed with bear traps, and heads are cleaved with blades and pierced with a pick-axe. A couple women try to avoid grotesque and painful diddling by taking headers into gorges. The deaths are fairly bloody, but not overly so, leaving the remainder of the gore and violence to take the form of juicy-sounding flesh eating, crossbow bolts through the face, eels squirming between lips, and of course the poor little puppy that gets it’s head bashed.
This was a disappointment. Even with a limited cast this category should have been better exploited. The character of Rebecca is tailor made for T&A shots and while she does serve up the A while slipping into a hot bath, the T is only glimpsed briefly during a stand-up sex session with Jack (who also shows some ass). There is one fully nude body later in the movie… but it’s of a dead woman hanging from hooks missing a leg. So most folks won’t find that too sexy. (Don’t worry Fure, it still meets your criteria.)
Clearly, the main message here is that you should never visit Australia unless you’re a fan of being raped and murdered (usually, but not always, in that order). If you absolutely must go then you should stay within city limits. Stepping one foot into the wild outback or forested areas is guaranteed to end in harrassment, sexual assault, captivity, and a violent, bloody death.
Seriously, Australia’s tourism board must truly hate the local film industry because it seems most Australian movies that reach our shores share this same theme. Dying Breed hits pretty much all the notes of the genre pretty directly too… from the city folks lost in the wild, the possibly inbred locals, the “unwelcome in this bar” scene, the nasty-as-hell shack filled with bloody body parts, the misuse and abuse of innocent bajangos… they’re all here. The movie does have one fairly interesting twist, but co-writer/director Jody Dwyer chooses to do nothing with it. It’s a shame too because the movie starts with some real potential.
Mixing the real-life Pieman with the equally real Tasmanian tigers creates a fantastic backdrop for the story and the world that the four friends descend into. You’re not sure at first what exactly these folks will be facing and the film briefly toys with a more monstrous revelation than is ultimately delivered. Along the way the film does provide some visually striking locales, some strong production values, and mostly quality acting from the four leads, Leigh Whannel (Saw), Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek), Mirrah Foulkes, and Melanie Vallejo.
The sheer stupidity of the characters grows tiresome rather quickly though. Dark woods you’ve never been in before? You should obviously split up to look for wild animals. One of your members scared and defenseless? You should obviously tell her “Stay here” and then leave her behind. (Of course she returns the favor leaving him to be surprised and attacked without so much as a warning yell.) They don’t have a single intelligent thought, and they all suffer from a severe lack of viewer interest as well. Nina is the only one given anything resembling a back story, and the others are simply fodder for the meat-eaters.
Dying Breed ends up a middle of the road thriller that you probably won’t remember much of in the days and weeks following. It’s certainly better than any number of PG-13 American horror films, but if you’re looking for a little hillbilly gone amok action I’d recommend the underrated and surprisingly fun Wrong Turn. If you prefer to stay down under then I’d say you’re best bet from the past few years is Storm Warning.