Director – Richard Stanley
Cast – Robert John Burke, Chelsea Field, Zakes Mokae, John Matshikiza, Rufus Swart, William Hootkins
Release Year – 1993
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Dust Devil is an early 90s horror film that has intrigued me for quite some time but was never easily available for viewing until now (thanks Netflix). Giving us a unique storyline that blends ancient myth with a grand killer I really enjoyed, writer/director Richard Stanley followed his punk-rock horror film Hardware with this vastly under-appreciated experience that never received the attention it deserved – almost never seeing a release as well.
After leaving her abusive husband the young Wendy Robinson takes what little she owns, throws it in her car, and embarks on a trip with only the future ahead of her. She makes her way to the small town of Bethany and along the way picks up a hitchhiker known by legend as the Dust Devil – a shape shifting being who preys violently on the lonely and unloved.
Don’t you love it when you come across a horror film with an original storyline? The idea of someone running way from their past and looking for a new beginning is far from a new one, but most of us can relate to such actions in multiple ways and the film starting off with just that via Wendy’s leaving of her husband envelops the viewer before any of the good stuff actually kicks in. Once we are exposed to the Dust Devil himself I was elated to see such an awesome antagonist delivering some great kills complimented with sweet dialogue, which leaves me bewildered as to why – after two solid horror films – writer/director Richard Stanley has yet to give us another horror experience. There are many other different elements at play, which come with several other prominent characters thrown into the mix, but the Dust Devil and Wendy steal the show as far as characters go. I was very impressed with Stanley’s writing execution of the Dust Devil, and he gives us a very unique take on this old folklore and much like with Hardware he gives us a very unconventional experience for the age this film debuted.
Stanley’s direction is great as well, giving us awesome atmosphere and camerawork that puts us right in the feel of the events going on onscreen. He gets positive character performances from most involved, however as with his writing execution he gets the most out of actors Robert John Burke(Thinner, Robocop 3) and Chelsea Field as the Dust Devil and Wendy. As with most horror films involving an awesome killer – only the killer matters, and Stanley’s execution of the Dust Devil could not have been better. Aside form Burke’s awesome performance this character dishes out some sweet kills that resulted in good live action gore via severed body parts (his ceremonial killing method) and sweet action overall. Stanley’s filming style may play into why this film (and Hardware) failed to gain attention when they debuted (and even to this day), but nonetheless Dust Devil remains the high-point of his career and a pretty enjoyable horror experience with an awesome antagonist.
Overall, Dust Devil is a recommended film that I suggest you give a watch to if you are looking for something different that was swept under the radar almost two decades ago. We get a sweet story and Stanley’s awesome direction makes for a very enjoyable killer sure to leave a lasting impression for those who give this a shot.