VAN DIEMEN’S LAND Review. [Fantastic Fest ’09]

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Directed by Jonathan Auf Der Heide, 2009
Written by Jonathan Auf Der Heide and Oscar Redding

Set a film in Tasmania in 1822 with prisoners on the run as characters and, as far as my frame of reference for the story is concerned, you may as well be making a movie on a different planet. And yet with nearly 200 years and half a globe of separation between myself and this true story of cannibalism among escaped convicts, Van Diemen’s Land still clawed its way under my skin. There’s one particularly haunting moment that I found nearly unbearable to watch; what’s amazing about that, however, is that Van Diemen’s Land is not a gory horror show, and the particular moment in question arrives without a single drop of blood.

Despite the integral plot element of cannibalism, there’s no abundance of body parts or organs floating about in Van Diemen’s Land. In fact, the film is remarkably light on the red, and yet there are nerve-crushing moments in which all semblance of humanity goes out the window. That loss of moral compass in the face of survival is the cornerstone of this fact-based story about a prison break that went horribly wrong: Eight prisoners in a Tasmanian penal colony overthrow their sole guard only to learn that the coast isn’t as clear as they thought, that their only true course of action is to either wait to be recaptured (and almost certainly executed) or flee aimlessly into the wilderness.

Read the rest of my VAN DIEMEN’S LAND review at HorrorSquad.


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The second wave of titles for this year’s Fantastic Fest are ravaging the interwebs and the Twitters and I couldn’t be more excited.  Not only will this be my first real film festival (I’m not counting the Chicago International Film Festival), but it’ll be my first Fantastic Fest.  From everything I’m hearing, that’s like having your hymen broken by King Kong.  Say it’s going to leave an impression is an understatement.

Click here to remember the past to see the first wave of titles and read on for the second batch of features with further details at the official Fantastic Fest Blog.  Considering there’s still a third list of titles waiting in the wings, I think I may have to upgrade the above analogy from having sex with King Kong to getting raped by the entire girth of that asteroid worm that tried to eat the Millennium Falcon in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

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