Judge Dennis Prince was confused, thinking this was an instructional DVD for his new red-bodied handy-vac.
Having already basked thoroughly in the surrealism of Dust Devil while reviewing the Limited Collector's Edition DVD, I offered no hesitation when invited for a return engagement. This time around, Subversive Cinema is releasing a pared-down edition, presumably pressed in higher numbers than the previous short-run edition. So, we'll take a look at the film again—gladly—and let you know how this trimmed offering holds up in dutifully imparting the legend of a man who's not a serial killer; he's much worse.
A demonic being (Robert Burke, Robocop 3) descends upon dying towns to consume the souls of weak and unwary humans that straggle behind. Having assumed human form, he's stalking the arid deserts of South Africa in a continual search for additional souls to perpetuate his human-like existence. Appearing as an American tourist garbed in a dusty trench coat, boots, and a wide-brimmed hat, the demon that calls himself 'Hitch' literally hitchhikes from a barren roadway, luring his next victims through his portrayal of a needful wanderer. He seduces a young woman who takes him to her home and engages in physical relations, only to be brutally murdered, dismembered, and given as an offering in his bizarre and fiery soul-stealing ritual. Traveling on, he encounters an abused woman, Wendy (Chelsea Field, The Dark Half), who has left her overbearing husband. Sensing her despondency, Hitch targets the woman for his next soul feeding, but does so slowly, gaining her trust and companionship. A local police officer, Ben (Zakes Mokae, Outbreak), haunted by nightmares of his own son's death, understands the essence of Hitch and the dark spirituality he embodies. As Ben closes in on the demon, Wendy becomes filled with dread as she begins to realize something is very, very wrong about Hitch.
A second look at Dust Devil is as welcome as the first; even more so. I liken it to taking a repeat trip through your favorite amusement park dark ride—able to peer into other areas of the setting that you might have overlooked the first time while also relishing again the key pieces that you could easily pore over ride after ride. The film is rich in style, deliberate in method, and fully committed to its lore. I have previously likened it to Don Coscarelli's 1979 genre standout, Phantasm, another film that establishes its unreal premise as fact without hesitation or apology. Dust Devil revels in its own reality and effectively communicates as much to viewers. It's a patient endeavor that seeks to mesmerize its viewers with artful composition and numerous nods to other genres from which it borrows tastefully (horror, science fiction, and spaghetti westerns). I also previously reported the film's plot as being a bit underdeveloped. That's still evident a second time through, yet it was not as disruptive, since I had my expectations properly set and also had even more time to "gel" over the production's intent. That is, when you take a follow-up ride, it seems all the more enjoyable for it.
While I had plenty of praise to laud upon the five-disc Limited Collector's Edition, my task here was to determine if a severely pared-down single-disc offering could properly represent this most enticing film. Easily, yes. Without a doubt, there's much material you'll be giving up if you go this single-disc route, and therefore I strongly encourage a purchase of the limited release while they're still available. But, in full disclosure, understand that Dust Devil—The Final Cut Limited Collector's Edition serves as more of a study of talented filmmaker Richard Stanley, using the feature film as the initial draw and then offering a slightly extended "Working Print" version of the film, three unrelated Stanley documentaries, a CD of the film's score, and three bonus booklets. In this edition, you'll find the lion's share of material pertinent to the feature. Therefore, you'll find the same Final Cut transfer, identical to that found in the limited edition, looking just as good here and accompanied by the same Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio options. The single disc is overflowing with the same bonus features as before, including an audio commentary by Stanley joined by Subversive Cinema's Norman Hill, 18 minutes of Stanley's on-set home movies, a 16mm version of Dust Devil that Stanley made as a student, a trailer, and a photo gallery. As a single disc, it's brimming with content and serves as an in-depth study of Stanley and his work on this particular film. The good news is that a couple of extra bones are thrown to buyers, as this disc includes the Dust Devil production diary and the excellent graphic novel adaptation.
If you're not interested in a complete "film school" approach to Stanley, or if you just want to save 10 bucks, then you really can't go wrong with this more concise Dust Devil—The Final Cut single-disc edition. Of course don't be surprised if, after watching it, you'll want to own the Limited Collector's Edition anyway. Pick your poison, but know that you can't miss with either purchase.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Subversive Cinema
• Audio Commentary
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