Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Spooktacular # 5: Dust Devil

This is a somewhat lesser known horror movie from the early 90s that I first stumbled upon entirely by accident, happening to notice it mixed in with a bunch of random horror movies in someone’s folder in DC. While I didn’t see it then, it always stuck with me, so I was quite happy when it finally got a DVD release about a year ago.

I’ve long been a big fan of horror movies and westerns, and so have always been eager to see a mixture of the two genres. Sadly, filmmakers themselves tend to disagree with me on this, and so this is the only one I’ve seen that’s actually good. Set in South Africa, it observes a truism to all good horror movies: location is vital. Most of the film is set in the vast expanses of the desert, which, unlike the pleasant and friendly seeming deserts of American westerns, looks harsh and alien and all too eager to kill. The plot concerns the fates of three characters as they slowly entwine around each other: Wendy, a troubled woman that flees her abusive husband and attempts to go westward to the shore, to possibly try to eke out a new life, or to at least end the one she’s got, Joe, an aging policeman that’s trying to strike a delicate balance between solving a series of serial killings while not stepping on the toes of any U.N. officials who want to take over for him, and the Dust Devil himself, a shape shifting demon who feeds on the souls of the suicidal, and who may actually be an ancient African god himself.

The Dust Devil is out on the prowl.

The movie is nice in how it is willing to take its time and build a mood and characters, rather than rushing into things. We’re given the time to actually grow to care about and empathize with our cast, even the Dust Devil himself, and we’re given enough nuggets of information on how he operates and what it would take to stop him that we start to get an idea of how its going to all play out, but do we necessarily want it to play out that way? The film keeps wisely ambiguous as to just how villainous he actually is, and kept me surprised at the end, with the characters arriving at somewhat different endings than I would have thought. I can’t understand how there are so many much more famous bad horror movies out there, while an actual intelligent and well-made one like this languishes in obscurity. It’s a damned travesty, is what it is. You should frankly all be embarrassed to not have known about this before now.

Rating: *** ½

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