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March 13, 2013

Dying Breed

by Franz Patrick

Dying Breed (2008)
★★ / ★★★★

Nina’s sister, a zoologist, traveled to Tasmania to look for evidence that the supposedly extinct Tasmanian Tiger was thriving. But her quest for science led to her demise. Eight years later, Nina (Mirrah Foulkes) and Matt (Leigh Whannell) trace the deceased zoologist’s tracks along with Jack (Nathan Phillips) and Rebecca (Melanie Vallejo). Nina hopes to continue her sister’s unfinished work and, hopefully, find closure in terms of what really happened out there in the savage wilderness.

Written by Rod Morris and directed by Jody Dwyer, “Dying Breed” is quite creative in the way it deals with cannibalism. Instead of immediately lavishing us with ravaged flesh and amputated limbs, it focuses on providing an increasing level of dread.

I admired the way it handles the slow-burn rising action. When the twenty-somethings arrive in the small town, they sense that they do not belong and feel that they are constantly being watched. And for a reason. The locals are hungry; it is only a matter of time until a bunch of hyenas get tired of encircling their prey.

The search for the Tasmanian Tiger runs parallel to the popular legend involving Alexander Pearce (Peter Docker), also known as “The Pieman,” a man believed to have eaten people in order to survive in the forest. At least that is the goal. While the connections are certainly there, I did not feel as though the two strands are explored enough. I had one burning question: since the horror aspect is based on myth, are we supposed to assume that the cannibal is capable of transmogrification? I felt it needed to answer that question so that the viewers will have a clearer idea of what the protagonists are up against.

However, the film does a good job contrasting between the two entities. When Nina finally sees the tiger, the tone is dream-like, almost surreal; when she and her companions decide to follow it further into the forest in order to take a picture, the tone becomes menacing because they were unaware that they were being hunted by The Pieman.

Once the dead bodies start to pile up, we are eventually given the chance to see fresh bloody meat being prepared to be cooked or eaten as is. There is one great scene when Matt and Jack, friends since childhood, suspect that there is something devilish being cooked in a pot. It is darkly amusing because even though they do not say what they are thinking, all of us have an idea (and which body part). Like Matt and Jack, we brace ourselves to see the worst. The picture needs more carefully constructed scenes like that.

The last couple of scenes are disappointing. The material has consistently proven that it is very capable of holding back brutality until the perfect moment. The final ten minutes not only feels disloyal to the film’s message about secrets and mysteries, it feels cheap because it insists on delivering one final twist. “Dying Breed,” based on a screenplay by Dwyer and Michael Boughen, needs to excise extraneous scenes that might work in other horror movies but are not right for itself.


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