Simple Simon met The Pieman playing with a knife.
Said Simple Simon to The Pieman "Will you take my life?"
Following on from Wolf Creek and Black Water, Dying Breed plays less on conventional fears (murderers in the outback and crocodiles in the mangroves) by having a group travel off the beaten track in Tasmania in search of the Tasmanian Tiger.
The film opens with the true story of the Irish convict Alexander Pierce, known as The Pieman, who, in 1822, escaped from his British captors and had to turn to cannibalism to survive. In the present day, Nina, a Zoologist whose sister went missing in Tasmania some years ago whilst looking for the tiger, travels 'down under' to find out what happened to her and find proof of the creature's existence.
With her boyfriend Matt, she hooks up with local lad Jack, an outgoing and egotistical Aussie and his girlfriend Rebecca and they travel to a colonial era village, making it their base for their trips into the surrounding forest. The tone is set early when Matt sees a young girl on the punt playing with teeth and singing a sinister song, when he approaches the girl she bites him.
The local bar is hardly welcoming and Matt tells Jack to shut up when he begins humming 'Duelling Banjos' but they manage to secure accommodation for the night before heading up river on their boat the next day. Jack manages to annoy the locals by slashing the tyre of a ute that cut them off on the way and you know immediately that this isn't going to be a trip where everyone will come back unscathed.
Dying Breed marks Jody Dwyer's debut feature and he brings recognisable genre actors Leigh Whannell (writer and star of Saw) and Nathan Phillips (Ben from Wolf Creek) to the project. The film is an ordeal horror with the group defending themselves against Pierce's descendants, though they are unaware of the history of the area.
Dwyer shows himself to be a competent director, using the location superbly to create real tension and horror. The cast are very good in their roles, with a mix of empathy and annoyance, with Nathan Phillips suitably irritating - you don't want him to die but you feel that, in true genre fashion, he has to! This is a very enjoyable and well crafted debut feature that marks Jody Dwyer out as a name worth looking out for and though Dying Breed isn't the best horror film out of Australia in recent years, it's well worth a look.
Sadly, just a trailer.
As I said, Dwyer uses the locations to good effect and the woods are always a good location for a horror movie - there's plenty of scares to be had just with a snapping twig or the slightest movement in the bushes. There are quite a few dark scenes but the transfer holds up well, with a clear picture that doesn't distort or lose definition in these low lit scenes. You don't get the inky blacks that a Blu-ray would provide but this is a good SD picture.
In a film that relies on tension gradually cranking up the pressure before the true horrors arrive, a good surround mix is almost essential. Fortunately this is the case here with a very sharp Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which does a good job of presenting the dialogue and uses the surrounds well in the woods and confined spaces when the smallest noise can unsettle. The score is very good, aiding the sound design and helping ramp up the tension. Speaking of sound design, the more gory elements may have some people closing their eyes but that won't help as the horror is presented as much through the sound as the visuals.
I found Dying Breed to be an extremely watchable ordeal horror that plays with the myth of Alexander Pearce very well. The liberties they took with his true story help the film, creating a mix of Deliverance and Ravenous. It's a shame that the disc only comes with a trailer as a commentary or 'making of' would have been welcome but this is still a film that genre fans would do well to check out.