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The Dead Lands

New Zealand / UK 2014
produced by
Matthew Metcalfe, Glenn Standring, Andrew Boswell (executive) for General Film Corporation
directed by Toa Fraser
starring James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare, To Kohe Tuhaka, Xavier Horan, Raukura Turei, George Henare, Rena Owen, Pana Hema Taylor, Calvin Tuteao, Jamus Webster, Bianca Hyslop, Isabella Rakete, Matariki Whatarau, Wairangi Koopu, Jeff Ruha, Kani Collier, Te Manahau Morrison, Mere Boynton, Maria Walker, Ria Paki, Taupunakohe Tocker, Thomas Kiwi, Tori Marsh, Antonio Te Maioha, Kimo Houltham, Ngarino Watt, Rob Williams, Eds Eramiha, Siosa Fonua, Stephen Grey, Jeremy Hollis, Nooroa Poa
written by Glenn Standring, stunt coordinator: Steve McQuillan, visual effects by George Zwier

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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New Zealand, long long ago: Due to treachery, the whole tribe of Hongi (James Rolleston) is killed by the warriors of Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka), ambitious son of the chieftain of his tribe who caused the massacre mainly to win honour. Hongi, a chieftain's son as well, knows he has to avenge the death of those he loved ... but while Wirepa is a great fighter surrounded by his men, Hongi is not much of a warrior, merely a boy of not yet 16 years of age. But he crosses over in the spirit world to confer with his long dead grandmother (Rena Owen) and learns Wirepa and his men are crossing the taboo Dead Lands to arrive at their tribe all the sooner, and the Dead Lands are protected by a cannibalistic demon. So Hongi tracks down the Demon (Lawrence Makoare), who's actually just a mountain of a man and a mighty warrior, who has once lost his own tribe like Hongi, and out of the anger over this he turned into a vicious killer and cannibal, and that coupled with fighting and strategic skills, and lilmitless courage and self confidence ultimately turned him into a legend. But something in Hongi touches him, so instead of just killing and eating him (which would be an easy task to do), he not only trains him as a warrior but also promises to help him track down and kill Wirepa and his men.

In the first attack, the Demon kills about half of Wirepa's braves, and when he's struck down by a spear, Hongi manages to save his life and chase the rest of Wirepa's men away, the moment of surprise on his side.

Suddenly being on the run, Wirepa's courage begins to diminish, and some of his men turn against him - which leads to a few executions, even. Finally they find an abandoned fortress though they think they can use to defend against the Demon and Hongi - which soon turns into a bad idea when the two of them put the fortress uinder siege, and water and food become scarce inside. But Wirepa's not beaten yet, and he makes up a devillish plan to divide Hongi and the Demon and lure each of them into a death trap ...

 

A Maori historical about war, honour and revenge, with a mythological dimension woven into the story, The Dead Lands is above all else one thing: A very powerful movie. The film is based on a very well-written, stringent script that really pushes things forward throughout and immerses the audience in the Maori world without trying to explain too much away and instead putting its trust into interesting characters and a universally understandable story. Now add to that an exciting narrative pace and directorial effort, great action scenes that feel raw and well-staged at the same time, a great cast and last but not least wonderful location work, and you've got yourself a rather excellent movie.

Totally worth your time!

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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Out now from
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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
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starring
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