It was almost a year ago when I first saw Jody Dwyer's Dying Breed at the Tribeca Film Festival, and since then I've been mentioning it to my horror-obsessed colleagues who are looking for a solid "under the radar" chiller, albeit not one that's necessarily a "cult classic waiting to happen." Several of those colleagues (the ones who'd seen the film) were actually sort of surprised when I went to bat for the flick, but hey, Dying Breed has played a lot of solid festivals, and now it's arriving as part of the 2009 After Dark Horrorfest. And since I've been brutally honest with my opinions of previous After Dark offerings, I think it's only right to flip it the other way and say "Hey, good pick-up!"
So while Dying Breed is absolutely one of the better flicks that AD has come up with, I realize that that's not exactly high praise. So I'll just say this: Dying Breed gets a spot on my horror DVD shelf, and (believe it or not) I don't give out those spots lightly.
The plot is a very familiar one: Two young couples (comprised of people with more bravado than sense) decide to delve into deepest Tasmania to solve a two-headed mystery. One of the gals is looking for traces of her long-vanished sister, plus there are lots of local legends about a mythical beastie that, whaddaya know?, just might be real! So Act I sets up the premise, the characters, and the icky arrival on Tasmania; Act II focuses on how horribly things can go wrong in this part of the world; and Act III is all sorts of "survival horror" insanity that should absolutely thrill the hardcore horror fans. How much you like the flick as a whole depends on how well you deal with Acts I and II, but I was impressed with the four leads, and that always helps. Plus, despite some very familiar ideas, Dying Breed moves pretty quick once all the cards are dealt out.
The splat-work is quite impressive, and it's supported extremely well by first-time director Jody Dwyer. The deeper our doomed foursome treks into the wilderness, the more oppressive the movie starts to feel. Of course it helps that most of the action was actually shot in a very forbidding location (Tasmania itself!), but the director deserves some praise for the flick's consistent tone of ... sliminess. Lead actor Leigh Whannell will of course be familiar as the co-writer and co-lead of the original Saw film, and here he's flanked by Nathan Phillips, Mirrah Foulkes, and Melanie Vallejo. Each actor brings just enough to the movie so that we have an ensemble that we actually DO sort of care about, but since they're trapped in a horror flick ... it's also fun to watch 'em get savaged.
Dying Breed is a lot like The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn, or any one of a thousand (mostly recent) horror flicks you can think of: Cocky, clueless "citified" folks wander into a harsh part of Mother Nature's domain, and (may or may not) live to regret it big-time. I'm not exactly sure why this them gets used and re-used so often in the horror genre, but if the result of a new coat of paint is something grungy and fun like Dying Breed, then I'm up for a few more versions.