Sunday, February 1, 2009

PHESP Review: Dying Breed

In November 2008 I watched the Auzzie horror flick Dying Breed directed by Jody Dywer and was pleasantly surprised to find that the true story it's based on was far more interesting.

The film’s storyline is very loosely based on a horrific true incident that involved murder and cannibalism, taking place in Tasmania around 1842. The story of Irish convict Alexander Pearce is actually far more interesting and would have made a much better movie.

(Alexander Pearce)

Alexander Pearce, originally a farm laborer from County Fermanagh, was sentenced to penal transportation in 1819 for stealing shoes. He was sent to Van Diemen’s Land and after committing a number of small offences whilst serving time; he was later transported to the infamous Sarah Island around 1822.

(Sarah Island)

The Macquarie Harbor Penal Settlement on Sarah Island prison was know by most for being home for the worst of the worst, with little chance of escaping alive. Escaping men would often try to swim or boat their way to the mainland after which they then had to brave the thick bush and harsh conditions for months before reaching any kind of civilization. Many had escaped the prison, but no one had ever made it out of the bush alive. 

(The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce Documentary)

On two occasions Pearce managed to escape the island prison and make it to the main land. The first time he escaped with seven other inmates. In their attempt to make it to Hobart the group had to walk for hundreds of miles, cross rivers, brave the heat and poisons animals and try and find food. After their food supplies ran out in the first month, two men decided to turn back and were later captured but died from injuries sustained during their time in the bush. The rest kept walking and were soon going crazy with starvation, as they had no idea how to live off the land. A few of the men had decided the only option for survival was to kill and eat a member of the group. They murdered one member and rationed his meat as food supplies. This idea had saved the men’s lives however, after three months of solid walking through densely think bush and harsh terrain their food supplies continued to dwindle. One-by-one, another member of the group was killed and eaten until Pearce was the only one left.

(The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce Documentary)

Pearce eventually made it to Hobart where he was captured. When he confessed in court that the other men had died as a result of cannibalism the judge did not believe him and said that Pearce was covering up for the other convicts who most likely were still on the run. He was then sent back to Sarah Island.

On his second escape not long after his return, Pearce escaped with one other man by the name of Thomas Cox. However, Pearce was caught within just ten days. The police had found some remains of Thomas Cox in Pearce’s pockets, although Pearce still carried bread in his bag. Pearce later admitted to killing Cox after Cox revealed that he could not swim, which, would have slowed them down substantially in their escape.

Pearce was arrested and taken back to Hobart and charged with cannibalism and murder. Eventually he confessed and was hanged on July 19, 1824.

(Dying Breed)

The 2008 film Dying Breed takes place in Tasmania in the present day and follows four filmmakers setout to try and discover the Tasmanian Tiger, thought to have gone extinct years ago. Whilst on their travels they come upon a small town in the middle of nowhere, which unknown to them, are the living descendants of Alexander Pearce. It would appear that the cannibalistic genes has traveled down the family tree quite successfully as the unsuspecting group slowly find out.

Although the film has some moments of grotesque horror, the storyline and actors are not too convincing.

Overall I found it semi-interesting because I had read about Alexander Pearce before hand but, later watching the very well made documentary The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce, I was far more intrigued and impressed. Dying Breed, although fictional in storyline, make out Pearce to be a monster, where as the documentary sheds a very different light on the true story.

Overall ESPV rated Dying Breed:

Acting                        2/5

Storyline                    2/5

Bloodiness                 4/5

Grotesqueness            3/5

Scare factor               2/5

(For a true messed in the mind cannibalistic experience you cant beat the oldskool pioneering film Cannibal Holocaust)