Saturday, October 24, 2009

359) Dust Devil (1992)

359) Dust Devil (1992) Dir: Richard Stanley Date Released: March 1993 Date Seen: October 24, 2009 Rating: 2/5

After having seen Blood River go an initially similar route, I thought I had Dust Devil* pegged. Mangled as it is, full of silent inserts that survived only on VHS tapes of dailies, the film's first half looked coherent enough to be read as an unconventional "Christian Horror" movie. As with the hitcher in Blood River, the titular, shape-shifting stranger (Robert John Burke) in Dust Devil seemed like a more mythologically chimerical version of a righteous killer with God on his side. In fact, that interpretation kind of, sort of pans out to an extent: later in the film, "The Devil" will tell Wendy (Chelsea Field), a willful pregnant woman who just ran away from her husband, that she's got "a source of light in her," pointing to her womb with a Bowie knife and then telling her that he's just a midwife. Right, so he's a pro-life mystical, mumbo-jumbo Christian psycho killer--you can hear Evangelical preaching on the radio earlier as he burns down the house of another victim.

But what follows is frankly unreadable. There are two many contextless leads for the viewer to follow and no coherent framing structure within which they can be parsed. The film's main subplot involves another "faithless" loser, Ben (Zakes Mokae), a South African man whose wife left him after their child's untimely death. It's suggested that both he and Wendy are being targeted by the "Devil" because they both have had suicidal thoughts though Wendy, at least, proves that while it's crossed her mind, she doesn't want to die just yet.

For that matter, why anything else happens in the film is kept an imaginatively feeble-minded, blatantly open-ended mystery. Why the "Devil" collects fingers and polaroids, how the infrequent race-based confrontations in the film figure into the grand scheme of things, or even why it matters that the "Devil" tells Wendy he loves her before she blows his head off are just the tip of the film's opaque iceberg. Even the film's most attractive scene, wherein a movie theater is buried under several feet of sand, is just crammed in for its own sake without even the hint of meaning that would earn it the distinction of being a descendant of Kenneth Anger. A uniquely confused and confusing film.

*Talkin' 'bout the work print

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