The ‘Afterdark Horrorfest’ doesn’t register on most of the minds of people in Britain, so the films that fall under this banner most often appear in the U.K with little fanfare. It’s certainly a shame though, for gems such as “Autopsy” and “Dark Ride” end up hitting the shelves without much of an impact. The same could be said for “Dying Breed”, which although highly derivative of other, better horrors, would still please even moderate genre fans.
The muddled ‘story’ has four twenty-somethings travelling into the deep countryside of Tasmania in an attempt to photograph the extinct Tasmanian Tiger. Nina, a zoologist, is especially interested in continuing the work of her sister who went missing in the dense forests a few years ago. Unfortunately, as is evident in the first ten or so minutes, Nina is joined with a particularly unlikeable group, with one character seemingly a relation of Stifler, who not only likes to get laid, but also enjoys shooting innocent wildlife with a huge crossbow (which conveniently comes in handy later). Upon arriving in a strange community, these characters immediately increase their annoyance factor by pissing off the locals for no good reason, thus sparking a chain of events that’s lifted straight from (insert hillbilly horror film name here).
Yes, we’ve seen it all before, but there really isn’t that much original horror nowadays anyway, so you have to make the most of what you’re given. “Dying Breed” therefore allows the audience to wring a surprising amount of enjoyment from its thin premise, and results in a pretty exciting, and pretty disgusting entry into the backwoods horror cycle. The reason for this is that it’s held together with decent performances all round, grotesque gore effects and a few genuinely tense sequences slotted in for good measure.
The reason this sub-genre is so prolific is because a fear of the unknown and hidden parts of any country is legitimate, and it’s resultantly quite difficult not to make this type of film without it being at least slightly unnerving. “Dying Breed” consequently (and luckily), is frightening, it is nail-biting and it is more than a little bit unsettling – so on these grounds it succeeds. Alas, where it fails is in the essentials which seasoned genre fans expect from modern, independent horror.
For once all the excitement and scares are stripped away, what is left is unfortunately a pretty basic template for any type of slasher movie, one complete with more than enough irritating character actions and clichés to supply a writer with another Scary Movie script. For the way these characters behave is straight out of the ‘Thing’s Not to do When You’re in a Horror Movie’ book. For example, they have a handy knack for splitting up at every available moment, even doing it on purpose – “Stay here while I investigate this dark cave, I know there are redneck cannibals and tigers out there but you’ll be fine. Back in a minute, LATER!” It’s this disregard for common sense coupled with a rather large amount of falling over that brings the film down a notch or two.
The underdeveloped storyline also hinders the film’s impact, as its main narrative focus – the elusive Tasmanian Tiger, which could have added a really interesting dynamic to the proceedings – results merely as a tenuous plot link to something much larger at the conclusion. Another less-thought out element is introduced in the vague prologue, ‘The Pieman’, who was a cannibal that escaped a penal colony by it seems, eating those who tried to capture him. This story arc is again not explored as much as it could have been, and missing links within the story are hence left to the audience to join.
But aren’t these all moot points? This kind of film doesn’t pander to the audiences that want high-brow horror – it aims for the jugular of those who liked Wrong Turn. So these discrepancies remain slightly disaffecting to the film’s success and therefore it’s possible that they won’t really bother many horror fans, especially those looking for a quick fix – and if that’s the case, “Dying Breed” is surely one of the better entries into this cycle.
P.S. All those fortunate viewers in the U.K get a nice shiny trailer on the DVD as well, lucky us!
Jody Dwyer (director) / Michael Boughen, Jody Dwyer , Rod Morris (screenplay)
CAST: Nathan Phillips … Jack
Leigh Whannell … Matt
Bille Brown … Harvey / Rowan
Mirrah Foulkes … Nina
Melanie Vallejo … Rebecca
Ken Radley … Liam
Elaine Hudson … Ethel
Sheridan Harvey … Katie
Peter Docker … Alexander Pierce