Dust is a killer, and not just for people with COPD!
Written By: Richard Stanley
Directed By: Richard Stanley
It’s a shame that there isn’t a true final version of Dust Devil. I have a feeling that most of the elements of the film that didn’t work for me would be shored up nicely in a fully realized version of Richard Stanley’s film. The version that I watched, the final cut version, certainly gave me plenty to chew on. But, I could tell that something was off and that the film I was watching wasn’t complete. I’d like to some day see a complete version of Dust Devil, because if there was a cohesive story to go along with the atmosphere and direction, oh boy, we’re talking about a truly great horror film right there.
What I was given in the final cut version of Dust Devil is a moody film that did grab me. From the very start Mr. Stanley puts the focus on atmosphere and isolation. His film isn’t about vampires, although I can easily see why people would focus on the titular Dust Devil as a vampire. Rather, I took Dust Devil as a film about the pitfalls of emptiness and isolation in humanity. Dust Devil is a film willing to explore how we are becoming an isolated society and how that may just be removing us from our very humanity in far better fashion than boring claptrap like Babel. Dust Devil doesn’t hammer home its theme of isolation, instead it slowly displays its theme for the viewer in the form of visual cues. The one area where I was most impressed with Dust Devil would have to be the visual style and framing of Mr. Stanley.
The score is also important to Dust Devil as it helps to set the atmosphere. The visuals of swirls, concentric circles, and isolation are overlaid with a humming score. It is loud at times, but for the most part Simon Boswell’s score stays in the background. It enhances the visuals and helps at times to distract from the less than stellar aspects of Dust Devil. Most of all the score is essential to driving the atmosphere home. There’s an eeriness to Dust Devil that takes root in the first minutes of the film and that is due in large part to Mr. Boswell’s score.
Acting wise there isn’t anything to write home about in Dust Devil. I feel bad judging the actors in Dust Devil because I could sense that parts of their performances were left out that were essential to truly buying into their characters. I did enjoy Robert John Burke as the Dust Devil himself. He allowed himself to be enough of a blank slate to be terrifying without ever establishing a true modus operandi. The rest of the cast are okay, but there’s not enough meat to their characters or the performances for me to really take anything away from what they did.
The story, especially the overuse of narration that tells us a lot that we could have been shown, is where Dust Devil is at its weakest. I know that a lot of the confusion within the story is due to the reels of footage that were lost to the cutting room floor. Based on what I saw of the film I do believe there was a decent story within Dust Devil. However, I wasn’t given that story, in its stead I was given an erratic and unfocused story. When it comes to the final moments of Dust Devil it is the atmosphere, visuals, and score that carry the film past a narrative that never firms up in a satisfying way.
Dust Devil certainly has its faults, but I enjoyed myself all the same. The atmosphere of the film enticed me, the score pulled me in further, and the visuals hit me in the gut full force. The story and the acting faltered, but they were overshadowed by what I enjoyed about Dust Devil. I’m not about to keep pining over the completed version of Dust Devil, because I know I will most likely never be given the chance to see that version of the film. Those looking for a moody horror film that is off the beaten path should give Dust Devil a shot. Dust Devil is an unfinished film, but what made it into the final cut version certainly made for an intoxicating viewing experience.