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A shape shifter (Burke) comes from the desert in search of victims, a spirit the locals call "The Dust Devil". He prays on the lonely and the unloved, those who have already lost everything but life itself. Wendy (Field) has broken up with her husband and wanders aimlessly in her car. She picks up a stranger and begins having misgivings about picking him up when strange things begin to occur. Meanwhile a local police officer (Mokae) tracks the killer. Aided by a shaman's admonishments about witchcraft he sets off to try and stop the beast before it can complete its grisly task. Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
Mirimax Films constantly sent memos to the set asking writer/director Richard Stanley to make the film more like "The Silence of The Lambs". See more »
When Wendy slams on the brakes of her VW Beetle, she doesn't touch the clutch, but the car stops without stalling. See more »
Back in the first times, in the time of the red light; the desert wind - Soo-oop-wa - was a man like us. Until, by mischance, he grew wings and flew... like a bird. He became a hunter, and like a hawk, he flew to seek his prey; taking refuge in those far corners of the world where magic still lingers in the earth. But having once been a man, so does he still suffer the passions of a man. The people of the great Namib - me and my ancestors before me - we have another name for those ...
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The producers would especially like to thank the government and people of Namibia for their help in the making of this film. See more »
"Dust Devil" is an intriguing, moody little genre film, marked by very fine acting and the kind of atmosphere one can only get in practical locations. In this case, the setting is the Namibian desert, and that adds a lot to the story and presentation. The ambiance is practically overwhelming; writer / director Richard Stanley ("Hardware") nicely captures on film a world that not that many of us get to see. Aided by a truly haunting music score by Simon Boswell, he does an excellent job at keeping the viewer uneasy yet interested in everything that happens on screen. The surrealism is top notch, and Stanley keeps the special effects work at a minimum. Overall, this is actually a better film than "Hardware", if not entirely satisfying; the script is indeed somewhat muddled. The characters are worth watching, with likable protagonists and a creepy antagonist.
The under-rated Robert John Burke stars as the title character, a spirit trapped in a human body who must kill in order to gain access to another realm. He makes the acquaintance of Wendy (Chelsea Field), who was unhappy in her marriage and has run away. Tracking Wendy is her concerned husband Mark (Rufus Swart), while The Dust Devil is pursued by haunted cop Ben Mukurob (the late, great South African actor Zakes Mokae, whom you may recognize as the villain from Wes Cravens' "The Serpent and the Rainbow".
Adding even more intrigue to Stanley's tale is the fact that he based it on the case of a real- life serial killer in the area who was never caught, or even identified, leading to speculations about a possible supernatural origin. The director blends African mythology with the serial killer and otherworldly elements, not to mention a love for the Western genre, to great effect. The fact that Wendy and Ben are such sad people adds much pathos; if Ben can be considered a hero, then he's definitely a tragic one. It's easy for the viewer to feel sympathy towards this character. Field and Mokae beautifully perform their parts, and Burke is deliciously sinister. Adding solid support is another departed great character actor William Hootkins, who'd acted in "Hardware" and appears here as Bens' superior. Delivering the exposition in an entertaining way is John Matshikiza, who's magnetic as Joe.
The heavily edited American release of "Dust Devil" really did it no favours; the subsequent reviews then motivated American distributor Miramax to put little effort into promoting it, which further prevented this film from reaching the audience that it deserved. If you are able, track down the multi disc Subversive DVD release (which also includes a few Stanley documentaries, the work print of the film, and the soundtrack on CD); you can then see this offbeat effort the way it was intended.
Seven out of 10.
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