Dust Up Review

by Sean McLaughlin


As 2012 comes to a grinding halt, this will be my last movie review for HNN of the year. Don’t get too excited, because I’ll be back in full force for 2013. The last year writing for Horror News Network has been very enjoyable, and I was hoping that my final review of the year would put a nice bow on the year as a whole. Luckily, I was not disappointed. Breaking Glass Pictures’ genre-bending flick Dust Up assaults the viewer with a spaghetti western wrapped in a violent world of quests for redemption and anarchy. Writer/Director Ward Roberts (2002’s award-winning short The Boy Scout) mixes in just the right amount of absurdity, violence and schlock-appeal to whet the appetites of cult fans around the world. Think The Good, the Bad and the Ugly meets Kill Bill, with the temperament of Idiocracy thrown in for good measure.

Dust Up spins the tale of apathetic ex-Marine Jack (Aaron Gaffey), an eye-patch clad handyman that lives his mundane existence in the desert surrounded by other like-minded disconnects such as runaway Indian Mo. Of course, there’s a story behind the eye patch….but then again, when is there not? Jack was serving in the current crisis in the Middle East and lost his cool for just a second. However, that split second cost him his sanity as well as his purity. These are things that he attempts to atone for by living a life of servitude, and stowing his angry side deep down in the recesses of his subconscious. The intense wartime flashbacks that allude to Jack’s biggest mistake shatter the relative lunacy of these characters’ day-to-day existences. Focusing on the present, a dusty desert landscape provides the perfect setting for these two exiles to live out their humdrum existence that would cause John Wayne himself to spin in his grave. The Duke would never have a lengthy conversation with another man about his schedule for that day, including ample time for taking a shower. Jack needs to be pulled back into reality, which is what a phone call from abandoned mother Ella (Amber Benson) forces upon him.

Our hero is sucked into an underworld of drug lords and schizophrenic ne’er-do-wells, as Ella’s speed-freak husband wears out his welcome with low-life cult leader Buzz, snaring Jack in the web. Speaking of interesting characters, while Gaffey’s Jack is well portrayed with precise indifference and selective rage, Jeremiah Birkett’s Buzz is an absolute masterpiece. He’s a perfect blend of lunacy and intelligence, quite a scary combination. Spewing conspiracy theories like gospel, insisting 9/11 was an inside job and that the Gulf of Tonkin affair was staged by the US government, Buzz possesses a psychotic combination of charisma and lethality that would make well-known paranoid Alex Jones smile with admiration. Unfortunately, he chooses Ella’s safe house as a tipping point for his revolution and to engage Jack’s devotion to being a true pacifist. While Jack’s path to redemption spirals out of control, a house party from hell devours Ella’s tiny home and leads to their captivity. And then the cannibalism begins. For reals. A far cry from the relative monotony of the film’s beginning.

Mo (Devin Barry) proves himself to be a true buddy to Jack, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him during Dust Up’s climactic battle scenes. Again, Roberts does a wonderful job of creating a movie that appeals to fans of horror, comedies, the bizarre…..essentially producing a cult film in the process. Rawhide-type theme music provides the perfect mood for a movie based on both action and the absurd. The film’s sick sense of humor works well and the comedic timing is dead-on. There is some decent gore to be had, particularly in the fight and cannibal scenes; but just like the rest of Dust Up, even its presence borders on the ludicrous.

As I sat back on my couch, not knowing what to expect from this film, I was pleasantly surprised by how Dust Up was able to hold my attention and leave me wanting more. Ward Roberts paints a preposterously vivid picture using a very broad stroke, and hits the mark from start to finish. Thanks to Dust Up, I’m finishing up my year on a high note. In 2013, I’m eager to see what this diverse cast and Roberts himself have up their sleeves. Based on this movie, I’m all in.

Happy New Year!

Leave a Comment