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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dust Devil (1992) - Horror Magic Psycho

Dust Devil (1992) - I chose this film after listening to director Adrian Garcia Bogliano's commentary on his film "Here Comes the Devil". He says that this film is the film that made him become a film maker. It certainly a film like no other I have seen. What Richard Stanley's demon serial killer Namibian epic is all about is style.  Loosely based on a real life serial killer who hid in the outback of Namibia the story adds a legend of supernatural to make the film . Sweeping shots and saturated colors of reds and orange by Cinematographer Steven Chivers while amazing musical themes by Simon Boswell play through in what could be mistaken at times for a spaghetti western. The music is an amazing mix of classic Western style themes that really make the film more than a horror film. Stanley uses closeup, camera movement, expansive arid landscape, and helicopter shots to widen the breadth of the film. It is a very unique horror film that blurs the line of genre. I remember a conversation on the Splattercast podcast (you all should be listening to this one) talking about camera shots and movement and that every shot should have a purpose. So when you watch this film pay attention to the really cool moving shots. Are they really for a reason? What are the effects on the viewer when these shots are shown? Since this film is very stylized it is an interesting example to talk about this area of film making. My background being more in the studying screen writing generally leaves me at a loss to answer whether this film is shot well. It certainly looks good to me but I don't know the answer.
 A story of a demon made man who kills and uses  "body magic" to attempt to leave the earthly plane after generations of wandering and building the power of his rituals through murder and mutilation. Looking to do enough magic to escape the human plane the Demon is drawn to people contemplating suicide and so he finds our main character Wendy Robinson (Chelsea Field). She is a woman escaping a failing relationship with her paranoid and abusive husband Mark (Rufus Swart) she heads west towards the sea and to her inevitable meeting with the Dust Devil.
 Dated by its political setting the film touches the very real conditions of the country at the time of shooting.  Set in the arid sand filled wastes of Namibia just a couple years after it had won its freedom form South Africa. (1990) We follow the wanderings of the Dust Devil (Robert John Burke) a serial killing demon who victimizes strangers for his cut and dice magic which uses placement of body parts and blood drawings to move the demon ever closer to escaping this plane of existence. There are many examples in the film that give away the political conditions during filming. The tension between the white and black police officers, where the whites more and more are being moved out and black africans are taking the lead. Little thing that are more subtle like in a bar in the country side where segregation is the rule. The pinball machine which was on the white side is taken during the film andthen resides on the black side of the bar.
 Countering this malicious spirit made man is Ben Mukurob (Zakes Mokae) a former military commander who fought for the wrong side in the revolution but now a police officer with the experience to track the Dust Devil. Seeing the hideous remains of his magic Ben struggles with the idea of magic but can not deny that the killer believes. Haunted by a past that not only cost him his standing but also lost him his wife and son fifteen years before he is a man looking to move on who can't. Ben has the skill to catch this serial killer but to do it he will have to let go of the reality he knows for magic in front of his eyes.
 Wendy is an interesting character in that she is both strong but also contemplating suicide those feelings though are what attracts the Dust Devil. Her journey is one of discovering the strength to go on living. She goes from abused wife to strong fighter who does not need anyone else to thrive.
 The film is a complex one with several strands that the direct manages to weave into a very enjoyable experience.  The experience though may be trying to do a bit too much. There is a "let me tell you a tale" voice over that although adds something to the story could probably been excluded without hurting the story. The same thing can be said for the husband Mark, when Wendy left him he had served his purpose and although the metaphor of walking past him in the end of the film is effective to show the growth of the character it ultimately is a bit too on the nose and unnecessary. The pacing is slower than some horror and definitely slower than modern horror but growing up in the seventies I sort of like that. Certainly I will recommend this film it is above the average and a wonderful mix of magic Western and serial killer. Hell I have now watch the film four time and each time I have enjoyed the viewing and gotten a bit more depth from it. So for sure add this to your viewing list.

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