ByMatt Carter, writer at
If the zombie apocalypse kicks off you'll find me in the Winchester. @moremattcarter
Matt Carter

The Dead Lands is the latest offering from Kiwi director Toa Fraser (Giselle) and the first movie to take place in a pre-colonial New Zealand.

And what a setting it is. This country has been the magnificent backdrop to many blockbusters over the last decade - and is where legendary director James Cameron is currently squirreled away working on a plethora of Avatar films - but never has it seemed quite so brutal, beautiful and mystical as here.

The tale is a familiar one; a tribe is near wiped out by a warmongering tyrant with Daddy issues (Te Kohe Tuhaka), leaving only the woman, children and the adolescent son (James Rolleston) of the slain chief left alive. What follows is a rip-roaring rampage of revenge as the son is taken under the wing of the legendary - but very real - the Warrior (Lawrence Makoare), a savage fighter who dines out on his victims once he's brutally killed them.

The Warrior
The Warrior

And while the plot might sound pretty standard - and let's be honest, it won't win any prizes for originality - it's more than made up for by the unblinking and brutal filmmaking. Think Apocalypto-meets-Ong Bak and you'll get an idea of where you're headed.

I actually spent a couple of years living in New Zealand when I was a kid and we had to learn the Haka (traditional Maori war dance) at school when we played rugby. I never really understood all the tongue flapping and bulging eye movements, but seeing them used here in their proper setting, as a challenge to battle is both intimidating and thrilling in equal measure.

And this is where the strength of this movie lies. The Dead Lands is a violent and thrilling depiction of Maori warriors hacking and bashing each other to death in the name of honor. What more do you want in an action movie?


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