Dust Devil (1992)

He's not a serial killer. He's much worse.

A woman on the run from her abusive husband encounters a mysterious hitch-hiker.

Poetic Brutality.
After a blazing argument with her husband and deciding enough is enough, Wendy Robinson takes off into the African sun. Picking up a hitch-hiker, she finds herself strangely drawn to him, unaware that he is a travelling serial killer. When police detective Ben Mukurob arrives on the scene it becomes apparent that her companion is actually something far worse than a merely a killer, he is a shape shifting demon who steals the souls of his victims.
Richard Stanley's "Dust Devil" has a well documented troubled history. Briefly, Stanley's original cut of 120 minutes was trimmed to 110 and US distributor Miramax held the rights to re-edit an American release if they so wished. Stanley still hoped his longer cut would thrive in Europe, however, Palace Pictures in Britain had a 95 minute cut of the film that was test screened just the once before Palace Pictures went bankrupt. Thus this meant the post-production of a "European" version was shut down and Stanley lost control of the film. With Miramax chopping away in the states it now meant that "Dust Devil" was floating around in cuts that ranged from 110 minutes to a staggeringly pointless 68 minutes. In 1993 Stanley managed to buy back the print and the cut material from Miramax, and using his own money, set about restoring the film to something like his original vision. The result is that now a widely available DVD box set has two cuts of the film to view, The Final Cut and the (rough) Work Print.
With so many versions of the film around over the years, it's hard to gauge what a true weighted rating the picture has. Personally I feel sure that if judged solely on the "Final Cut" version the film would be better regarded and rated far better than some of its internet scores. That's not to say it's a perfect film, for it's not, some problems exist, and the flow of the film, even by Richard Stanley's own admission, is far from fluent these days. However, it's one hell of a fine movie, technically stunning and with a horror story of deep cranial worth. Starring Robert Burke (Devil), Chelsea Field (Wendy) and Zakes Mokae (Ben), "Dust Devil" has three interwoven character plots dovetailing together towards the apocalyptic finale. Along the way we are treated to much dialogue cloaked in haunting mysticism, with dashes of grim horror that assault the senses. It's a pic that begs revisits to truly appreciate the complexity of it, never mind that the visuals alone are worth seeing time and time again. It will remain a divisive film, of that I don't think there is any doubt, yet I would urge any genre fan who hasn't seen it to at least give it a go. You may not be as impressed with it as myself and its many fans are, but one feels you are unlikely to forget having ever seen it. Mesmerising, haunting and even lyrical, it's hoped that the film in its final form will find a more appreciative audience. 9/10

British Screen Productions, Channel Four Films, Palace Pictures, Shadow Theatre Films by Richard Stanley.
Stars: Robert John Burke, Chelsea Field, Zakes Mokae, John Matshikiza.

Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Western

Keywords: adultery fire isolation dream wind sandstorm nightmare hallucination wilderness ritual supernatural stranded surrealism hitchhiker demon desert

08/08/1992

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