Dying Breed (2008)

Director Jody Dwyer
Writers Michael Boughen, Jody Dwyer
Starring Mirrah Foulkes, Leigh Whannell, Nathan Phillips, Melanie Vallejo
Genre Cannibal
Tagline Some species are better off dead.

Dying Breed burst onto the Aussie scene in 2008 with more controversy surrounding it than you can poke a stick at. Adshel, Aussie outdoor advertising company specialising in bus shelters, refused to put up the initial advertising posters due to content. The posters, featuring a pie with certain parts of the human anatomy very much in evidence, were part of an insane marketing campaign that accented the gore and that apparently couldn't find any positives in the movie. Even with more inches of print than most Aussie horror flicks could ever hope for Dying Breed crashed and burned at the local box office taking under $300 thousand. The movie certainly got some support from local reviewers, namely the fanboy horror ones and the places that think anything locally made is good regardless of quality of movie, but missed with the influential critics. So end of day, and now that the dust has settled, is the movie any good or did the Australian Film Finance people back yet another dog in the manger?

Talk us through it

Two young couples venture into the Tasmanian wilderness searching for evidence that the thylacine, Tasmanian Tiger for foreign readers, is not as extinct as currently thought. One of the four, Nina, has evidence in the form of a paw print her sister discovered eight or so years previously. That would be the sister who drowned under mysterious circumstances and who's death has never been adequately investigated.

Nina is joined by her boyfriend Matt and his mate Jack who is financing the expedition for no apparent reason. Rounding out our Scooby gang is Jack's girlfriend Rachel who sees the whole thing as something of an escape from her job in a real estate agency.

Naturally the Tassie wilderness is fill of redneck descendants of legendary cannibal Alexander Pearce. Besides being inbred they have a side line in pie making that might well have pleased Mr Pearce. Anyone not see where this one might be going yet? Another city folk falling prey to outback degenerates ensues, haven't we had enough of these already?

Ready to check out your map of Tassie?


"Nothing, but I feel better eh? Come on, let's have a beer." - Jack

Director Jody Dwyer spends a lot of time at the start of the movie, and it must be said right through the middle of it, introducing his four major characters and placing them right in the middle of the Tasmanian wilderness. This is all to the good, a major failing of horror movies is inadequately introducing the lead characters, but could have been so much better if the audience felt the least bit of sympathy toward our four adventurers. We have Matt who spends pretty much the whole movie whinging, the dude is a wimp and hence should be first up on the deceased list, Jack who at best is an obnoxious prat and hence not long for the world, Rachel who at least doesn't deserve her fate (assuming we still aren't moribund by the whole "have sex and die" thing), and finally Nina who has a personal reason for the trip besides investigating probable thylacine poo. Do I need to add that personal agendas are pretty much a death signal in horror flicks? Of course not everyone is going to die in the movie as that would rob us of any chance of a sequel that, heaven forbid, might be better than the film we are currently sitting through.

In Dwyer's defence he does have a handle on utilising the Tasmanian shooting locations and nails the isolated and primordial forests down in that part of the world. The Director gets the whole cut off from the world vibe happening and you know our four leads are pretty much on their own with zero likelihood of help coming from any direction. Once our team cross the "pieman river" they have pretty much stepped back in time and on reaching the hamlet of "Sarah" it's pretty much just an exercise in waiting for the axe to fall and seeing who is going to be first into the pot. Dwyer does have some plot twists waiting to be sprung on the unwary, but if you can't see those coming a mile off then you quite frankly in the wrong genre. The other thing that is handled well is getting the various victims off on their lonesome logically without the usual "idiot" factor going down. Given our four leads are pretty much tools to begin with, excusing Rachel of course, their reactions to the situation at hand seem quite acceptable to be honest. I was definitely nodding in approval when Jack lets loose the roos in the top paddock, I know a few blokes that would have had the same reaction.

The problem with Dying Breed, regardless of talent behind the camera, is we have seen it before and have the tee to prove it. Killbillies living in grungy and grotty conditions, city folk not prepared for the locals murderous ways, young people disappearing in the wilderness, hands up who hasn't seen this a dozen or so times before. The film offers nothing original, even the much talked about mantrap was previously handled by Argento Pelts and a number of other people, and thus pretty much comes down to the audience waiting on each character to meet their demise. This may work for some people but quite frankly I was bored to death, no pun intended, with the whole idea and was hoping for at least a spark of originality to get me through to the end credits.

Dwyer introduces nothing you haven't yet seen in other movies, and offers nothing new for audience members hoping to stay awake. Originality can cover a multitude of sins in my book of counted sorrows.

Dwyer has two Tasmanian legends to work with and maybe that's one too many for the writing team to adequately handle. Both ideas are introduced in a sort of prologue piece that irritatingly had some white writing that I couldn't read. Firstly we have the thylacine that the Taswegians managed to exterminate back in the 1930s. The Tasmanian tiger is one of those holy grails of cryptology with regular sightings but no hard evidence to prove they still exist. Dwyer postulates they may be alive and breeding out in the Tassie deep forests hence the whole foundation of his movie and why a whole lot of explorers are hitting areas they should keep well away from. If Dwyer had of decided to go with a creature feature flick we might all have been having a hoot and a holler rather than rolling our eyes. The second legend Dwyer is working with is the whole Alexander Pearce thing. Pearce made a name for himself back in penal colonial times by escaping from a prison camp named "Sarah" and resorting to cannibalism to survive the Tasmanian outback, guess they didn't have a decent salmon industry back then. Any brief examination of the historic records will of course point out that Dwyer's film is pretty much devoid of accuracy in regards Pearce, but what the hey. The insertion of Pearce's descendants, who lets face facts have to eat and breed to survive, is simply a bridge too far for the writers of Dying Breed who have to resort to horror stereotypes to avoid the film simply disintegrating under the weight of the concept of modern cannibals. For those wondering, Dwyer is basically saying that if the Tassie tiger can live undisturbed in the wilderness then so too could a colony of cannibals that can trace their lineage back to the "Pieman". The Director seems blissfully unaware that one idea doesn't support the other and where the hell he got the "pie" concept from remains something of a mystery as the historic accounts don't mention baking, home or otherwise.

Which of course brings us to the plot holes in Dying Breed, Swiz cheese comes to mind. Our team take a river journey, have one heck of a night of discovery, only to find the little girl from Sarah has already made the scene of a killbilly hoe down. Uhmm, how exactly did she manage to traipse halfway across the Tasmanian outback and get to the camp before our leads? Don't even get me started on the final scene, the Tasmanian cops wouldn't have taken Matt into custody as the sole survivor of an expedition? Two cops are the sum force brought to bare by the local authorities? This is simply lazy writing and took me right out of the movie prior to a pretty good use of false teeth that should have been more impactful otherwise.

For a film that they tried to sell on the gore Dying Breed is keeping it prim and proper till the final third. We get a scene where some inbred chick is beheading puppies, for no apparent reason and I had to re-wind and slow mo forward to work out just exactly what she was doing, and that's kind of it till Dwyer light's the fires with his descent into cannibal holocaust territory. Even when the Director notches things up finally, Dying Breed is glacial in pace for much of it's running time, it's pretty hard to make out what's happening. Dwyer goes kinetic on us but the lighting is inadequate to match the action, so you are left in places wondering exactly what you are seeing. Like a lot of movies Dying Breed has one hell of a bloody reputation that in no way matches the actual film, you would need to cut approx ten minutes from the running time to show the movie on prime time television to be perfectly frank.

Dwyer finishes his movie with a few white messages, once again hard to make out, on the screen that really had me wondering if he wasn't drinking during the editing of the movie. Maybe he needed a few stiff ones before explaining to the Australian Film Finance people how on earth he managed to spend $3 million on a movie that looks like it should have cost about a third of that.

"Since Alexander Pearce's escape, more than 250 people have disappeared in the Tasmanian wilderness". Say what! Are they trying to associate the disappearances with Pearce, the mythical descendants of Pearce, this makes no sense at all. You might as well say that x amount of people have disappeared since the local basketball franchise folded.

"Sightings of the Tasmanian tiger continue to this day in the same area". Actually sightings have been reported from the entire upper north of the Apple Isle but without proof of those actual sightings to substantiate any claims the thylacine has lived on.

The final statement "No remains have ever been found" is another attempt at taking a disjointed fact and tying to imply something via the context in which it is being stated.

For a movie involving some class Aussie horror acting talent Dying Breed comes off as pretty much amateur hour. Mirrah Foulkes (Nina) simply plays up her Irish accent and that's about as far as she takes it. Anyone else wondering how come our Tassie tiger expert is a foreigner? Leigh Whannell (Matt) shows off all the talent he acquired form involvement in the Saw franchise and leaves the viewer wondering exactly how those movies made any cash. Nathan Phillips (Jack) actually does a half decent job and yes he was that dude form Wolf Creek. Melanie Vallejo (Rachel) doesn't have much to do but for mine gets the only half way decent character in the entire movie.

T&A isn't going down, we get one interrupted sex scene that made me wonder if the Director and Writers hadn't perchance had a look at Evil Aliens.

Sorry didn't note the score, was there one?

Summary Execution

I was warned going into Dying Breed that the movie was being overrated for what it actual was. Wonderfully Dwyer managed to turn on a movie worse than even my lowered expectations. Dying Breed is simply The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Wrong Turn transplanted to an Aussie setting and fitted into some local legends in an attempt to make it all green and gold. I had seen this movie before, dozens of times, wondered at some of the camera angles in use, and was left bemused by the neon signposting going down. Anyone not pick up on the little girl being Nina's older sister's off spring? There's no subtlety in the movie and I can definitely see the Taswegians not getting behind the "documentary" jokes circling after Dying Breed's release. End of day I was left wondering why the Director spent so much time introducing characters who were simply unsympathetic, and exactly how hard it is to make something approaching an original movie.

Dying Breed crashed and burned at the Australian Box Office due in major part to an emphasis on the gore being the focus of the marketing campaign. Even someone with a limited understanding of the Box Office could have pointed out horror is a hard sell in this country, gore is even harder. One wonders who the hell makes decisions at the Australian Film Finance place as they seem to have an innate ability to pick not only movies that are going to be non-commercial but that are also pretty inane in all reality. Thankfully the Independent film makers are still pumping out good Aussie horror or we really would be left covered in ketchup in the middle of Sarah.

Zero recommendation on Dying Breed, the movie is totally over rated in some quarters and doesn't deliver on what the audience might expect. I actually don't like gorenography at the best of times and only reviewed this movie due to site requirements. Even so I was left wondering "is that it" as the end credits rolled. Dying Breed doesn't provide the cinematic morsel one might expect, toss it back and get something with more meat on the bone.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

Give it a miss, nothing new to see citizens.