Friday, February 26, 2021

THE DUSTWALKER (2019) (Umbrella Entertainment DVD Review)


Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: 4 (NTSC)
Rating: MA 
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen
Director: Sandra Sciberras
Cast: Jolene Anderson, Stef Dawson, Cassandra Magrath, Richard Davies

Low-budget Aussie sci-fi film The Dustwalker (2019) begins with a meteorite plummeting to the Earth just outside a small rural community in  Australia, it arrives largely unnoticed and with not much fanfare just before dawn.  We're then introduced to a small town sheriff named Joanne (Jolene Anderson, Prey) who is soon to leave her post for the greener pastures of the big city, and what was supposed to be a uneventful last week turns out to be something much more threatening.

Initially unaware of the meteorite she is befuddled when it is discovered that something has knocked out the cell phone tower on the outskirts of town, cutting them off from the outside world. She eventually becomes aware of the space rock when local geology enthusiast Angela (Cassandra Magrath, Wolf Creek) finds the impact crater and takes not of it's strange alien metallic mineralogy.  People around town start reporting their loved ones have gone missing, and not long after Joanne begins to notice strange deposits of a weird red substance emerging from the ground around town. It begins to infect animals and killing livestock, and it's not long before the infection spreads to the human inhabitants. The initial effects with the substance seems to be disorientation and a discoloration of the skin, the infected seem wander the streets aimlessly, but soon enough they become violent.

As more of the town folk become infected Joanne and her cop-partner Luke (Richard Davies) finds themselves in the minority, protecting a handful on the uninfected from the alien-controlled community, including her sister Samantha (Stef Dawson, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), who is a teacher at the local school and her eight-year old son. 

This one starts off with hint of Night of the Creeps or Slither (2006) vibe, with something otherworldly falling from that spreads a mind-controlling contagion, and we even get a weird skinless cat/insectoid type alien that tunnels underground and emerges later in the film, but it starts off slow, and once it picks up steam I thought it was still too slow for my tastes. The film's threat is alien but once the infection starts spreading it turns into a infected/zombie film, and the action never really comes to a satisfying degree, and it feels pretty rote. 

Audio/Video: The DVD from Umbrella Entertainment is anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and has English Dolby Digital audio without subtitles. There are no extras on the disc, not even a start-up menu. 

I thought the film was well-shot, taking advantage of the sun-burnt Australian surrounding that sort of felt like the town of Paradise from Tremors, and I also enjoyed the principle cast, they were likable characters and the tight-knit small community vibe was strong. Where it failed was in the delivery and story elements the sci-fi action is weak, the bad CGI alien-monster did not help, and while the story is a well-tread path the scenery along the way was a bit of a bore. I thought director Sandra Sciberras did good work establishing the setting and tone, but the execution of plot and action were not so well handled, and it sank the film for me.