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The Dead Lands is a Maori martial arts action film directed by Tao Fraser. Hongi (James Rolleston), the son of a Maori tribal chief, seeks to avenge the members of his tribe after an ambush by a rival leaves the majority of them dead. Hongi must seek the help of the legendary Warrior (Lawrence Makoare), who rules over the nearby area known only as the 'Dead Lands'.


The image here is a bathed in luscious greens and naturally warm skin tones. There's a nice depth to the jungle settings offering a lot of textures for DVD and the natural setting offers plenty of detail that looks pretty great even with the lesser power of standard definition behind it. Black levels are solid across the board and if it wasn't for the low budget here and the rather uninspiring camera work, the creamy glow of this HD shot film might shine a little more beyond the crisp image and nice bit of detail.

There are some effects shots that change up the color pallet, especially in some of the more spiritual moments, offering up glowing greens and other more vivid colours. Night scenes plays more with warm lighting, generating a lot of fire based dancing light to bring the darkened detail in the light and it all works very well in shadow.

This really is a clean, bright and modern looking affair. This sometimes gives the film a less than realistic feel, despite the location shoots but there's no denying the presentation here fares well on DVD.


The dialogue sits a little lower in the central speaker than your average mix but it might have something to do with the rather soft spoken dialect. The score has much more oomph in the rears and while it's rather characterless it generates a mood well.

The action scenes are where the audio track steps up a little more. Impacts pretty solid but aren't quite as heavy as we've come to expect and the score never quite reaches a really exciting level but raised voices and indeed screams really push the track's limits and give lists everything to a more exciting level.

The clicking and chirping of the nature around the cast sits very subtly and dots around various speakers at times giving the track a slightly wider feel but this is a generally small sounding tracks that's doing it's best to out perform it's limitations.


Making of (28:36) delves deep into the mentality of the film and its Auckland shoot. There's plenty of story behind the making of the film and the cast's preparations and the location shooting and the history the film is celebrating.

The only other extra is the trailer.


The Dead Lands, like Apocalypto before it is a bold approach to an action drama, celebrating a culture and is accessible via its action and character . However unlike Apocalypto, The Dead Land is not way near as effective and certainly not as engaging in its unravelling story. Comparisons aside, The Dead Land is committed to telling its story and it never feels like anyone on screen isn’t equally committed and that makes for a pretty good watch. It’s a little long, it’s not always convincing with its tone or its visual style but those interesting in ancient Maori lifestyles and history and of course plenty of brutal(ish) action won’t go too far wrong here.

The cover art liked to highlight Apocalypto and The Raid but really The Dead Lands falls pretty short of both of those considered masterpieces. Instead, The Dead Land feels more like Apocalypto’s distant cousin by the way of a TV budget. Even with a seemingly small production budget, the disc still offers up a great video presentation, an average but ambitious audio track and an in depth and interesting making of, so there’s a lot of good stuff on offer with this release for what I’d imagine will be a fairly limited audience.

Dead Lands, The
Dead Lands, The
Dead Lands, The
Dead Lands, The
Dead Lands, The
Dead Lands, The