Aussie mayhem with cannibalistic inbred idiots and upper middle class whitebread victims fail to set this film apart. But great fun nonetheless
The latest in a long and respected string of rural scenario splatter films, Jody Dwyer’s “Dying Breed” is strictly for those craving brutal and bloody action. It combines the ancient legend plot tool with the innocent youngsters and the sicko backwoods inbred hicks tool to produce a workable vehicle for marginally imaginative mayhem.
The ancient legend revolves around the penal colonies that once dotted Australia. These were the first settlements of western incursion into the continent and, as history has it, times were hard. The criminals sent to Australia usually died in the fetid, disease ridden camps that received only marginal support from England.
This has the making of a good horror plot. The inmates that died could well have been buried in unmarked graves, which works from an angry spirit point of view. They also could have died under conditions of extreme cruelty by out-of-control psycho guards, although there is little history to suggest this is the case. The criminals themselves could have been Jack-the-Ripper types whose own bastardized chromosomes could live on in others.
So there is lots of potential, only a bit of which finds its way into this film. The inbred locales are the descendants of an earlier escaped prisoner, the legendary Pieman, who survived in the desolate wilderness by eating those who pursued him. So the story goes. This is good stuff for a splatter flick.
The weakness that eventually reduces the film to mediocre impact is the feckless foursome of curious youngsters who come to investigate the disappearance of a relative two years before. They are combined with equally stereotypical isolated inbred locals who immediately hate everyone who visits them. Of course, the youngsters follow the advice of the locals and fall into the various traps set for them like clockwork.
The problem with the youngsters is that they come upon the scene too innocent. They have no guilt and so can not be shown to run scared right from the beginning. By the time they get scared we in the audience are thinking “it’s about time.” The resulting chase scenes are variations on the scenes we have seen countless times before.
The cinematography is very good and the location, in the deepest wilderness of choking rain forest, is excellent. The set-up is a lot like “Deliverance,” and one of the characters even mentions the film, as a tip of the hat to James Dickey. The film is a combination of “Deliverance” isolation and “Cabin Fever” young adults ripe for the skewering.
The descendants of the Pieman are waiting to do exactly that, as the writers wring a little humor out of the blood and guts. In an early scene the local matriarch is shown euthanizing unwanted puppies with something like a claw hammer. Each execution is accompanied by a marvelous, meaty crunching sound and a slightly discernable, little puppy “arf!” The woman, covered in blood, continues her conversation with one of the visitors through the entire process (puppies out of screen).
If this was meant to be funny, it was right on. Unfortunately, there are no other incidents of humor that every good horror film needs to throw in here and there to set the stage for the real scary parts. The plot twists are very shallow; such as when one of the group fools the others with fake guts. There is an abandoned mine shaft that the local inbred geek tells the youthful detectives to explore, which they run into immediately and get caught in steel animal traps. Yawn.
In the end there are simply not many surprises.
Release: Tribeca Film Festival
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 91 minutes