There are movies that come along and take you completely by surprise, making you wonder just where in the hell they’ve been all your life and Dust Devil is one of them. I hadn’t even heard of this flick until Subversive Cinema sent me over the press release, and, even then, I found myself sort of vexed as to why this particular film was deemed worthy of a five (yes, five) disc set. Now I know.
On the barren highways of South Africa, there is an evil that preys on the souls of the suffering. Sporting a dry-as-a-bone jacket, outback hat, and a seductive smile, this demonic hitchhiker seeks out those who have already given up on life, whether they know it yet or not. When a young woman flees from an abusive relationship for a trip of self-discovery, she finds out more about herself than she was bargaining for. Meanwhile, a tortured African police office must come to terms with his own demons, as well as the ancient ways of his kin, as he follows the bloody trail that leads to the Dust Devil.
More astute fans of the genre may remember Richard Stanley as the man who created the cult-horror hit, Hardware. Apparently, I am not that astute. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even realize that Dust Devil was the product of the same filmmaker until I was well into the supplemental material on this overwhelmingly comprehensive set. Frankly, I wasn’t really all that impressed by Hardware, but I think it was a victim of its own hype. Horror magazines (as well as the always-ready-to-lend-a-quote Clive Barker) proclaimed Stanley the second coming of horror. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and Dust Devil went pretty much unnoticed in the U.S.(although it has, apparently, developed a large following overseas).
The first thing that struck me about Dust Devil was the fact that it looked incredibly good. I mean, I’ve seen some great looking horror films, but Stanley’s movie has the sort of look usually reserved for sweeping epics like The English Patient or Lawrence of Arabia. Granted, the beautiful African countryside helps, but the director’s keen eye makes the absolute most out of it, and the result is a film of striking beauty. While the story itself is a fairly simple one, the cultural nuances and exotic locale lend it a mystic sensibility I’ve not seen since Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow (which also features the excellent character actor, Zakes Mokae).
Subversive offers up Dust Devil in a robust five-disc special edition that sports both the director’s cut of the film, a longer work-print, as well as three of Stanley’s documentaries, including a fantastic look at voodoo in Haiti called “The White Darkness”. The set also features multiple commentaries, a feauturette, trailers, bios, and a bonus CD of the film’s soundtrack! As if all that isn’t enough, there’s a Dust Devil comic book, as well as a production diary and liner notes booklet.
This is one of the most exciting releases of the year, as far as I’m concerned; not only due to the volume of special features, but for the fact that this is like discovering a long lost treasure for me. I really loved this film, and found myself completely absorbed by all of the materials that accompanied it. If you’re a fan of this film already, be prepared for one seriously long weekend of viewing enjoyment. However, if you’ve not already seen Dust Devil, then just be prepared to be blown away.