Many horror films claim to be based on true stories, hoping to scare us further with the old adage that the truth is scarier than anything made up.
Some of these claims are valid, and more often than not some horrendous biopic of one of the many serial killers that have sprung from American soil (Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy etc). So far, so nauseating.
Most of these claims only have a vague basis in reality, or are completely untrue.
Dying Breed it seems follows the logic of the various movies that have come out of notorious American killer Ed Gein’s history of taxidermy and possible cannibalism (Psycho, Deranged, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, even Silence of the Lambs), find a real person and embellish the hell out of what they did, or what might have happened.
In this case, that figure is Alexander Pearce “The Pieman”, an Irish convict transported in the 1820s to a penal colony on Tasmania for theft who became famous for allegedly cannibalising his fellow escapees.
He was found and hanged in 1824 (according to legend he had human flesh in his pockets).
What Dying Breed supposes is what would have happened if he had produced descendents, living in the small community he escaped to: Sarah Island. But this is not the only Tasmanian legend to be explored in the film, as our protagonists – zoologist Nina (Mirrah Foulkes), her boyfriend Matt (Leigh Whannell, of the Saw movies), his friend Jack (Nathan Phillips) and his girlfriend Rebecca (Melanie Vallejo) – are looking for the apparently extinct Tasmanian Devil, which Nina’s sister saw before she died in the very same territory.
So far, so Wrong Turn/Texas Chain Saw Massacre/Hills Have Eyes right? More of the same deformed cannibals, snobbish city folk, running through woods and so on.
Really there’s not much more to it than that, apart from the Tasmanian twist.
Dying Breed is certainly a competent film, but its main problem really is the glut in the market.
We know how its going to go before the get there – badly and bloodily – and there are no real surprises to be had within. The performances are solid, the film is quite nicely shot, with a lot made of mud and darkened woods contrasted with the odd spot of gore, but other than that there is nothing particularly remarkable about it.
In one respect it is to be commended for not being yet another film trading on the legacy of dear old Mr. Gein, with a more historical subject matter to get its teeth into, but ultimately this doesn’t raise it above other more exciting recent Australian based horror, like the gripping Black Water.
I can’t help thinking it would have helped to get the Tasmanian Devils, or tigers, more involved in the horror.
Additional film information: Dying Breed (2008)