Drawing on a pair of local legends, first time feature filmmaker Jody Dwyer along with Writers Michael Boughen and Rod Morris deliver a down-under thriller that plays out like an Aussie version of WRONG TURN.
On the Island of Tasmania, a group of 4 friends (Including SAW’s Leigh Whannell and WOLF CREEK’s Nathan Phillips) has set out to investigate rumors that the extinct Tasmanian tiger is still alive and roaming the lush tropical jungle. For Nina, (Mirrah Foulkes) the trip is especially poignant as her sister died while investigating the same claims eight-years earlier. The friends soon arrive in a small town named after Alexander “The Pieman” Pearce. Pearce was a convict back when the Island of Tasmaina (then known as Van Diemen’s Land) was sort-of the maximum security prison of the 1800’s British penal system. Pearce escaped and while he was on the run, turned cannibal to stay alive. Upon arriving in town, the group meets the kind of stereotypical inbred, backwoods band of locals who don’t take kindly to tourists traipsing through their town in horror films. When the gang head out into the bush to search for the elusive man-eating tiger, things go from very bad to bloody-well way worse as they find themselves being hunted by a different kind of unseen beast.
By weaving local folklore, wildlife and a clear love for genre conventions, Dwyer and the rest of his cast and crew actually deliver a reasonably entertaining feature film, that succeeds in spite of the fact that it offers absolutely nothing new (other than backstory) to one of horror’s most beloved subgenres—the backwoods thriller. The fact that the film is not as inspired or as brutal as WOLF CREEK may disappoint some but the effects work is still pretty gruesome stuff and the performances from the cast are actually quite a bit more three-dimensional than CREEK’s stand up and shoot ‘em down cardboard characterizations.
The most compelling aspect of DYING BREED is actually the backstory of Pearce. Provided only as set-up in the film’s opening sequence, Pearce’s story has inspired a wave of recent Aussie film productions, including a documentary and the 2008 feature film THE LAST CONFESSION OF ALEXANDER PEARCE. The story itself is ripe for the horror pickings, with true crime and cannibalism always a mark of high regard for genrephiles.
So, if you’re looking for a pretty standard, but well executed thriller, with a steady body count, lush settings, a smattering of sliced up fleshy parts and buckets of blood, then DYING BREED is bound to deliver something right up your alley. If you’re of the “seen it all before” mindset that would pass this picture up on the synopsis alone, then, perhaps you might want to consider that Australia’s last two genre success stories, ROGUE and WOLF CREEK were hardly wildly original tales themselves.