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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Outback
Xenon // Unrated // July 13, 2010
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted August 16, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Product:

Sometimes, that's all a movie deserves. Beyond all its ambitions, its attempts to make good on its intended genre designs, apathy becomes the requisite response. You try to build up some interest, take the 90 minute plus experience as camp or cautionary example, but as the dullness leaches into your soul and steals your will to live, you can do little except sit back and let the ennui wash over you. It doesn't happen all the time and usually co-exists with that dreaded "homemade movie" ideal within independent production, but when it does, the sensational is almost sickening. The Outback is such an ambivalence inducing experience. It wants to be an exploitative splatterfest, a combination of post-modern monster movie and blood-drenched slice and dice pseudo zombie epic. It ends up being a boring, derivative mess that few in the fanbase will appreciate - or even work up the courage to care about.

The Plot:
When Gus loses his high profile job with a Sydney banking firm, he immediately decides to go on a surfing holiday. He grabs his gal pal Kate, who could also use an escape from the daily grind of putting bodies back together at a local hospital, and together they plan for some well deserved R&R. They are joined by Ling, her hunky meat Jason, and group spiritual advisor Annika. Of course, the New Age free spirit has to undermine the heterosexual status of the trip by bringing along gay buddy Matt, who instantly hits on the guys. As they drive deep into the heart of Australia's version of nowhere, they run across as shabby bum who sells Kate a map to a local watering hole. Naturally, the group decides to venture toward the unknown spring to splash about a bit. Upon arriving, their discover that there's no water...no way out...and no hope of survival. You see, the gang comes face to face with an ancient evil bent on - well, it's not really explained all that well - and it's determined to kill them one by one. And it does, more or less.

The DVD:
As confusing as the numerous alternative titles its existed under - Prey, Outback, THE Outback, and perhaps most bizarrely, Dreamtime's Over (which sounds more like the name of a Kate Bush single, frankly) - this Australian excuse for indigenous horror is as hackneyed as it is unwatchable. Then, to add to the perplexing mediocrity of this movie, original director George Miller (to repeat what every other reviewer has had to state - "NOT THAT ONE!") supposedly takes his name off the final product/is fired, a new moniker (Oscar D'Roccster) is added to the IMDb listing, and suddenly it looks like we have an "Alan Smithee" situation on our hands. So far, all the signs are pointing to something supremely terrifying, right? Well, if you're talking about horrific acting, frighteningly amateurish plotting, and a monster-mash payoff that will cause a chill (of crappiness) down your spine, get your fear factors good and engorged. Whatever writer John V. Soto originally intended for this material was clearly flummoxed by interference from two creators of "additional story and dialogue" (Robert Lewis Galinsky and Elizabeth Howatt-Jackman, both producers on the project) and the results reek like a dead dingo with an equally moldering newborn in its maw.

Let's face it - any film using the stunted star power of Natalie Bassingthwaighte (the hostess of the Downunder version of So You Think You Can Act...sorry, Dance) and Don Johnson's fey son Jesse isn't banking on celebrity to sell their wares. Even worse, The Outback then girds the cast with a complete cross-section of comtemporary stereotypes - hippy chick in love with crystals, her buff gay companion, an Asian chick in touch with her should-have-left-it-at-university "alternative lifestyle" side as well, and her bumbling macho boy toy. Add in Ms. Too Many Consonants in My Last Name as an stressed out ER doc (huh?) and Nash Bridges' offspring as a recently fired corporate raider (huh? times two) and you've got a collection of victim fodder that even the most worthless spree killer would avoid like the output of Yahoo Serious. We have to suffer through endless conversations about how cool everyone is, watch as Bassingthwaighte has a series of insufferable dreams, and pray/prey that the ending will provide the kind of gore needed to save such slop. Of course, even with the covert art promise of a bosomy babe wielding a chainsaw, the arterial spray is as anemic as anything else in this nonsense.

The most problematic element here is the desire, post-production, to tweak everything to look like Jonah Hex's worst nightmare. The Moon is made to resemble a cheap effect, the sky constantly flowing with fake clouds and "spirits". The snakes used to spread the centuries old "curse" are SyFy shoddy in their CG clunkiness, and the make-up work looks like initial mock-ups for something much more convincing to be crafted later on. With the desire to infuse everything with a digital tweak here or there (of course, they didn't clean up the obvious greenscreen work used to suggest the cast land cruising along the arid backroads of the Australian desert) and the piecemeal direction, The Outback is nothing short of a full-on failure. You'll be laughing more than cowering from dread and by the time the Ozzie version of a haunted homeless guy returns to do some dopey Aboriginal painting on Ms. Bassingthwaighte's torso, you'll be running for the remote. Direct to DVD fright is never a safe bet. After all, the release type suggests a reject of epic proportions. Sadly, The Outback is not some kind of "so bad it's good" example of fail. Instead, it just sucks.

The Video:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Lightning Media does send a final product version of The Outback to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Audio:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Lightning Media does send a final product version of The Outback to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Extras:
This Screener copy of The Outback only contained the movie. No bonus features. If Lightning Media does send a final product version of The Outback to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

Final Thoughts:
Maybe the final product will find a way to explain this mess. Maybe an audio commentary will create the kind of inherent interest the acting, writing, direction, production, F/X, setting, and scares fail to generate. Whatever the case, what we have here is barely worth considering. In fact, the awarding of a Skip It gives this silly slop jar of supposed scares too much attention. As with most examples of languor-producing motion pictures, the less said about it, the better. That way, fans desperate for something scary won't be suckered in. No matter what you call/called it, The Outback is appalling. It is destined to produce more yawns than screams.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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