Thursday, July 12, 2012

REVIEW: Dust Devil

Dust Devil
Director: Richard Stanley
Year 1992
Dust Devil is an enthralling horror film that subjugates the audience to bare witness to a vividly portrayed world filled with surreal imagery and cruel tendencies. Blasted across a brutal and dreamlike landscape in which magic twists the lives of its main characters, the film is a wonderment in atmospheric horror which soaks the viewer in a grotesquely imagined psyche of a serial killer, yet unveils that there is more to meets the eye when the true nature of the beast is revealed. Shot across the expansive and dry plains of South Africa, Dust Devil is a true masterpiece of the genre, as it seduces all who fall victim to its beautiful presentation and stark maliciousness.
The film follows a young suicidal woman by the name of Wendy Robinson as she sets out on a cross country trip in order to run away from her abusive husband. With her course set towards the sea and her mind struggling to relinquish the past, Wendy begins to have a number of strange encounters with a lone hitchhiker who slowly begins to reveal to her that he is more than just a mere man. Referred to by the locals as The Dust Devil, this shape-shifting man devours the lonely and lost, and unfortunately for Wendy he has his sights on her. Hunted in the middle of nowhere and lost within the never-ending dune covered desert, Wendy must find a way to survive this hellish situation and prove to herself that she wants to keep on living.

Chelsea Field plays the role of Wendy Robinson, the jaded and worn-out young woman who teeters on the brink of death. Chelsea is mesmerizing in this role as she really gives an outstanding and rigorous performance as the strung out Wendy, forcing you to sympathize with her ongoing plight. In the context of the film, the character of Wendy must progress from a timid and suicidal pacifist to a headstrong and capable fighter by the closing moments of the film and Chelsea does an amazing job in pulling off this character arc with stupendous results. Not only does the narrative demand that she be battered emotionally throughout the story, but she is also physically tested as there are a number of action-filled moments that have her clawing her way out of an overturned car, fighting for her life against a demonic magician, and even wielding a shotgun like a total badass. It’s the cruel and unusual punishment that she endures throughout the movie that really allows you to root for her in the end. Her performance is just plain enjoyable and Chelsea creates an enormously memorable role as the captivating hero. It also doesn’t hurt that she looks absolutely stunning in the film either.
Robert John Burke takes on the demanding role of the Dust Devil, the shape-shifting spirit who takes human form in order to satisfy his appetite for human suffering. Burke is outstanding in the role, allowing a truly twisted cinema monster to wreak havoc on the denizens of this dilapidated post-apocalyptic looking countryside. His performance is deliciously devilish, though surprisingly he gives a rather sympathetic approach to his character. You could almost call him likeable in the role, harking back to real-life serial killers like Ted Bundy, where his charisma was his number one quality in which persuaded so many victims to let down their guard, enabling Bundy to be such an efficient and successful killer. I enjoyed the parallels to real-world murderers, even if it wasn’t intentional, and Burke takes an impeccable stab at the role.
Aside from the two main actors, we are given a third in the form of Zakes Mokae who tackles the role of Ben Mukurob, a local police officer who is plagued by depression over the loss of his wife and son. Assigned to the series of grizzly murders, in which the Dust Devil has created during his travels throughout the region, Mukurob takes on the case as a personal quest in order to cleanse his guilt over the things that he believes he has caused to have happened in his life. Zakes brings a special kind of quality to his character which allows his unique breed of acting and local flavor to add an exotic and genuine touch to the film. His efforts in this movie go a long way and I thoroughly enjoyed his handiwork in building the atmosphere of the world.

When it comes to beautiful horror movies, Dust Devil leads the pack. Of course this is no surprise when it comes to Richard Stanley. He’s able to infuse breathtaking visuals into genre fair where you typically wouldn’t see something as optically sumptuous otherwise. Take his violent science fiction effort Hardware for instance. The film is bathed in harsh abrasive colors, plunging the film into some kind of surreal nightmare, instead of the tried and true iterations of the genre that stick to a more tangible sense or real-world feel. With Dust Devil, Stanley allows the otherworldly quality of the South African desert and its scattered towns, to enhance his story and emphasize the dream-like quality that he introduces in this film. Lost in a haze of orange hues and crimson blood, Stanley paints an expressively haunting depiction of a world that is slowly dying and slipping into the past. The void that the countryside and its dilapidated towns offer, gels perfectly with the theme of the narrative, bringing to light the frightening concept of man’s frailty and mortality.
Adding to this thematic tone is a no holds barred approach that goes right for the jugular. The world of Dust Devil is viscous and cruel displayed perfectly by the depressing quality of life among the living, the harshness and racial tensions between the races, and the overall brutal tendencies of the blood thirsty Dust Devil himself. Trapped in a ritualistic series of murders in order to maintain his power, the Dust Devil both laments and relishes in these acts, often playing with his victims before slicing them up like a Thanksgiving turkey. The gory details are reveled in by the filmmakers as they never shy away from the aftermath or try to hide our eyes from the ungodly things this beast of a man does. For me that’s what makes Dust Devil so vividly profound, as it never forgets what kind of film its trying to create. By maintaining the vicious continuity across the length of the film, the movie comes off as a complete visceral experience, one that ends with an epic conclusion that really takes the cake in practical gore effects. Let’s just say that this film gives Scanners a run for its money in the exploding heads department.

Dust Devil is another masterpiece by the South African-born filmmaker. It is a film that showcases just how good a horror movie can be if given the proper treatment and the correct amount of unabashed love. As serious as a heart attack, Stanley provides all the right ingredients to make a compelling story that literally grabs us by the throat as it demands our attention and respect. With a cast that was equally up to the task in delivering a narrative with abundant maturity and metaphorical overtones, the film is a breathtaking portrayal of the horrors of depression mixed with the mythological archetypes that encompass the region’s history. Chelsea Field, Robert John Burke, and Zakes Mokae all do their part in bringing this cinematic world to life and each character has a sympathetic approach to their role.
The overall look of the film is off the charts as it compiles scene after scene of wonderful visuals plastered against horrific and shockingly bleak imagery that just curdles your blood. The severity of this film is displayed again and again, by the cruelness of its memorable moments, and the mythology that Stanley was able to establish and incur in this movie is simply astounding. Dust Devil is a film that is truly haunting in its portrayal, allowing the story to slowly unfold as we are witnessed to the horrors and reality of this fictional realm come to life. The mixture of iconic locations, memorable and fully realized characters, and the film’s penchant for blood lust, combine to make an atmosphere that is just super charged with poignant moments that burrow into your skull and never fade from memory. If you’re looking for a film that is soaked in surreal scenes, then give Dust Devil a go. This movie is an…..

This dude is so devilish.

The maid is going to shit when she sees this!

Well that sucks.

Thanks for the ride lady!

Looks like going on a road trip with a psychotic serial killer isn't all bad.

What a beautiful day for a blood bath.

I'm the Queen of the WORLD!

If you're going to cry about it you don't have to kiss me.

Trick R Treat!

I'll hold your stick, but I won't like it.

Anyone for a midnight snack? Finger foods!

What a FREAK!

Fuck YEAH!

Look at this badass.

Screw this shit! I should have just stayed with my abusive husband.

Ready.... Aim......


Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Holy Shit!

Oooooh that's gotta hurt!

No comments:

Post a Comment