Here’s another Aussie horror flick, this time with a pretty inflated budget (at least by our standards).
Dying Breed is set in Tasmania’s untamed west, and manages to tie in the history of the infamous cannibal ‘Pieman’ – convict Alexander Pearce – with the extinct but oft spotted thylacine. It’s a great setting for a horror flick, and makes good use of the dense wilderness in the way that Wolf Creek did of vast open spaces.
Determined Nina (Mirrah Foulkes) and nice guy Matt (Leigh Whannel) are on a research trip in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Tasmanian tiger. Matt has called upon his old friend and blokey provocateur Jack (Nathan Phillips) to act as guide and fellow traveller, who has in turn roped in his girlfriend Rebecca (Melanie Vellejo) (who quite frankly seems a little too sensible to be hanging around him). It’s an interesting bunch, and tensions are quick to mount with such disparate people. To make things a little more foreboding, Nina’s sister wound up dead 8 years ago after making the very same trip. When they reach an isolated township, it’s clear that The Hills Have Eyes, or that they’ve taken a Wrong Turn, or at the very least, there’s a ‘Shadow Over Innsmouth’.
The generic setup isn’t that much of a problem, actually. The opening scenes are well scripted and the introduction to the oh-so-slightly weird townsfolk is great, even if it’s all laid on a bit thick. It’s the deviations from horror cliché that actually work to the film’s detriment. Characters are knocked off suddenly, the plot takes some strange turns, but it doesn’t really work. There is an established horror formula (as with all genres), but if you mess with it you’d better have something brilliant up your sleeve. Dying Breed doesn’t. It feels lopsided and is fairly unrewarding in the long run. It telegraphs most of the plot, so that there isn’t really much of a mystery, and events never really gather momentum, so the narrative lacks any drive.
The performances are great, as is the direction. The four heroes/victims are realistic and likeable from the very outset. The budget is nothing to be sneezed at – we have CGI, flashbacks to colonial times and a snazzy title sequence, but in the long run this only heightened my frustration with the story, which simply isn’t good enough.
It’s a pity that such a well-made film turns out to be disappointing, because the concept had a lot going for it.Rating: