VAN DIEMEN'S LAND (2009) Review

Directed by: Jonothan Auf Der Heide
Starring: Oscar Redding, Arthur Angel

I've decided to start this blog off with a week of Australian horror film reviews. I will be doing one each day starting off with this true tale of murder, cannibalism and the will to survive.

There have already been two films made about Alexander Pearce, neither of which I have seen. The first is a biographical film titled "The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce" and the second is a horror film titled "Dying Breed" which is about the descendants of cannibal Pearce still living in the wilderness of Tasmania. A short film called "Hell's Gates" was also filmed, and it was this film that eventually became "Van Diemen's Land"

While not exactly a straight up horror flick, the concept is pretty gruesome. This true story of cannibal convicts in Tasmania is a horrifying tale. Although there is minimal blood and gore, the fear and paranoia within this group of men is plenty.
Jonathan Auf Der Heide's film is based on the last confessions of Alexander Pearce before he was executed in 1824. Pearce and a group of seven other convicts escaped a penal colony and headed into the unexplored and unforgiving Tasmanian wilderness. Eventually Pearce was recaptured and told horrible tales of committing murder and cannibalism. This movie focuses on what happened in between the escape and recapture.

The escape provides a little excitement at the beginning of the movie, but afterwards it rolls along at a very slow pace. Going by the excellent quality of Ellery Ryan's cinematography, the first 40 minutes may as well be a tourist advertisement for Tasmania. Then things start to pick up. After running out of food, the men decide to kill off the weakest of the group so the rest of them have enough food to survive. After the first murder, tempers flare and  paranoia abounds, with everybody wondering which one of them will be next.

All of the performances are solid, but there isn't much insight into the characters and when they start dropping like flies, I found myself not really caring about them at all. Essentially they are just a bunch of hairy men running through a forest trying to kill each other and no matter who the final survivor had been, I felt like it wouldn't really have made much of a difference.

Although not a piece of groundbreaking cinema, Van Diemen's Land is an above average addition to the Australian film landscape. The acting is great and the cinematography is some of the best I've seen. I think a little more character development and a lot more gore could have helped though. I also think that the film would have been more effective if it concentrated more on man vs nature rather than man vs man.

No comments:

Post a Comment