Zoology student, Nina (Mirrah Foulkes), claims she can breach Tasmania's impenetrable forests and reveal the existence of the illusive and ancient Tasmanian Tiger. Driving Nina's quest is one critical piece of proof: a paw print taken by her sister just before she met with a fatal accident eight years before. But Nina doesn't know that Tasmania became the world's most dangerous island in the 19th century, when the murderous convict Alexander 'The Pieman' Pearce (Peter Docker) broke out of prison and ate his fellow escapees. Soon Nina and her friends discover Pieman's dreadful descendants, when she sets out with her partner, Matt (Leigh Whannell), his old mate Jack (Nathan Phillips) and his girlfriend Rebecca (Melanie Vallejo) in search of the Tiger.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Inspired by the chilling historical record of escaped Tasmanian convict Alexander Pearce, hanged for cannibalism in 1824, and around the iconic yet elusive Tasmanian Tiger, Dying Breed is a hypothetical about what might have happened to the isolated group of convicts who escaped with Pearce, aka The Pieman. A young zoology student follows her dead sister's footsteps into the wilderness in search of the Tiger - and finds an altogether nastier species in the darkest woods of the island, which must remain hidden to survive, yet which needs fresh 'stock' to breed.
The little used Tasmanian wilderness - echoing with bad penal colony history - is the ideal setting for a horror story about humans who have fallen off the straight and narrow genetic path. Nathan Phillips is wonderfully irritating as the loud, boorish Jack who joins his lifelong friend Matt (Leigh Whanell) and Matt's girlfriend Nina (Mirrah Foulkes) on this adventure, and brings along his own girlfriend, Rebecca (Melanie Vallejo). Instantly at odds with the arrogant loud mouth, Nina is also annoyed that Matt acts like a wimp, never supporting her. Rebecca, the accidental tourist, is unaccustomed to roughing it, but does her best. Her best isn't good enough, of course, and the film milks the tension in the build up to the inevitable, genre rule-driven developments.
Grisly as it needs to be, Dying Breed is nevertheless quite a sophisticated horror film, layered with elements and peopled with leading characters who are more than stereotypes, thanks also to top performances. All the nasty support roles are beautifully cast (for beautiful read hideous) and the world class score by Nerida Tyson Chew supersizes the film well.
Shot in difficult, changing weather conditions has helped give the film a high level of veracity, alternating between jaw dropping beauty and gut wrenching dread, thanks to Geoffrey Hall's notable cinematography. David McKay's production design gives us an immediate sense of time and place, and Jody Dwyer's direction is taut, disciplined and cinematically astute.
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DYING BREED (MA)
CAST: Leigh Wannell, Nathan Phillips, Melanie Vallejo, Peter Docker, Bille Brown, Brendan Donoghue, Mirrah Foulkes, Elaine Hudson, Sally McDonald,
PRODUCER: Michael Boughen, Rod Morris
DIRECTOR: Jody Dwyer
SCRIPT: Jody Dwyer, Michael Boughen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geoffrey Hall
EDITOR: Mark Perry
MUSIC: Nerida Tyson-Chew
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David McKay
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 6, 2008
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.