I had talked about seeing the film with a very sweet publicist earlier in the day.
But I had forgotten about Dying Breed when it came to showtime. I had settled on seeing Harmony Korine's new film Mister Lonely instead, even though earlier in the day I had run into someone who said it sucked. I felt I should give Harmony another chance. He had, after all, written Kids. And though I disliked Gummo and HATED Julian Donkey-Boy, I felt the guy eventually HAD to emerge with something good. But I was dreading Mister Lonely inside.
I got to the theater and started chatting up a cute volunteer. She asked what I was here to see and I told her. Just then, a dashing guy in a sharp suit tapped me on the shoulder and said, in an Australian accent, "You should come to see our film, mate. It's much better."
"Oh, really? What is it?"
"Dying Breed." I slapped my head and yelled "Oh my God, I WAS supposed to see that." Changing my plans immediately, I followed the director, Jody Dwyer, into the theater, telling him that one of my favorite horror movies of recent times was Australia's Wolf Creek. "Good," he said. "Some of the same people worked on this one."
So I was excited as I took a perfect seat, and a guy behind me yelled "SCARY!" as the lights went down. It was a rowdy crowd that let me know I was in for a good time.
After a stunning period prologue (this is based on a true story) and an even more eventful, crimson-coloured credits sequence, I was settled in--as much as I could be--for the very best horror movie I've seen since maybe Se7en in 1992. Dying Breed is a hair-pulling, face-grabbing, oh-no-not-that-anything-but-PLEASE-not-that! sort of horror movie, one that confirms a new wave of Australian scares for us to get all balled-up over.
Dying Breed bleeds dread as it tells its sullen story. Mirrah Foulkes plays Nina, a twentysomething who's still in shock over the sudden drowning death of her sister. It's holiday time, so she plans on a curiosity-killing vacation to the Tazmanian island where she died. Along for the holiday/investigation is her sensible boyfriend Matt (Leigh Whannell), his partying best friend Jack (Nathan Phillips) and Jack's newest fuck-buddy, Rebecca (Melanie Vallejo).
When they arrive, the film morphs into a free-for-all shockfest that combines two cups of Deliverance, a cup of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, two teaspoons of Evil Dead, and two dashes of Friday the 13th. There's no point in recounting more of the story, as it'll give away some of the scares, which are plentiful. This is a gory film, but one done with taste, if you can imagine that. For instance, the most shocking death in the movie looks horribly painful, but becomes much more so when we're faced with the life trickling out of the character's body, coupled with the horrified reactions of the people surrounding the scene. You'll know it when you see it, what I'm talking about.
You'll also see the horrible, blood-clouded waters of Tasmania, where the devils run quickly, teeth bared. You'll see smoked meats hanging from hooks and eels exiting blistered mouths and all sorts of terrible scenarios involving sex and blood and bloodlines. Your brow is guaranteed to be furrowed throughout. Director Jody Dwyer, a former film editor who worked under Stanley Kubrick on Full Metal Jacket, expertly presents the film complete with the four benchmarks of a great horror film: (1) A terrifying use of silence (though the film has a fine dischordant score from Narida Tyson-Chew), (2) an equally terrifying use of darkness (great photography and art direction!), (3) a dizzying sense of disorientation, and (4) most importantly, the fear of a violent, prolonged death.
After the screaming had stopped and the lights went up, the writer of the film, Rod Morris--a gentle looking chap, really--stood up behind me and said "It was so fun to see you react to the film." I answered that I reacted the only way I could: with complete dismay. He ended up inviting me to their after-party, which I spent talking about how great their film was, and how it ranked with the finest titles in the horror genre.
How does it rank? Right up there!! Dying Breed is dedicated to making you VERY scared; it would go perfectly on a double bill with another TriBeCa horror find, The Wild Man of the Navidad (see TriBeCa Diaries #5). Jump for jump, you'll not see a more frightening movie all year.