THE DEAD LANDS (2014)
While I admit it was a unique twist to make a film about New Zealand’s pre-civilization Māori tribes and film it entirely in their language, The Dead Lands ultimately is a routine revenge thriller when all is said and done. Written by Glenn Standring and well directed by Toa Fraser, the film follows the betrayal and slaughter of a Māori tribe by the ambitious and power-hungry Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka) and his warriors. Only young Hongi (James Rolleston) and a few tribeswomen survive and the boy seeks to avenge his people by enlisting the help of a “monster” that inhabits the forbidden “Dead Lands”, where no tribes live or dare venture. Hongi finds this “demon” is actually a fierce cannibalistic warrior (Lawrence Makoare) and as the arrogant Wirepa is cutting through the warrior’s domain to save time, he agrees to help Hongi exact a bloody revenge. There certainly is a lot of bloody action, that involves the Māori’s unique weaponry, such as the hand held Mere, but, the film also looses it’s momentum and grinds to a halt about halfway through as characters bare their souls. Things do pick up again in the last act for a gruesome showdown between Hongi and The Warrior with Wirepa and his remaining fighters but, ultimately, you realize that, despite the Māori trappings, you’ve seen this all before. I would still recommend checking this out for it’s more unique elements and the well staged fight sequences, but, after all I have heard, I can’t deny I was a bit disappointed with how familiar it all turned out to be. There is some nice cinematography of the New Zealand locations by Leon Narby and a cool electronic score by Don McGlashan to accent the film’s story but, a familiar story it is.