Film review: Cane Toads: The Conquest (3D)

26 Apr

By Chris Harrigan

Cane Toads: the Conquest bills itself as a ‘documentary horror film’, a made-up portmanteau of a genre that would take the cake for cinema’s most insipid over-categorization had Birdemic director James Nguyen not already coined the genre ‘romantic thriller’, and then modestly ascribed himself as the Master thereof. But while Cane Toads certainly manages to document the spread of the toad across Australia’s top section, the promised horror is a little harder to find. The image of the toad itself is certainly unpleasant, but as fairly docile creatures that seem to just sit around, watching them for 90 minutes feels a lot more banal than it does horrifying.

There are other horrors to be found within Cane Toads, however, that director Mark Lewis may have had in mind when assigning the film its genre. The cast of everyday northern Australians, whose glib encounters with the toads are recounted in innumerous interviews, takes us into Wake In Fright territory. One subject, a self-taught taxidermist who attempted to make a living out of touring stuffed toads in a poor man’s circus, discovers unsurprisingly that the audience interested in paying to see cane toads is just that little bit too niche.

As for the 3D that the film’s promotional material hinges on: what shots there are of toads doing their thing (still not sure what that is exactly) all look nice, even if the toads themselves are not. The thing is, a good two-thirds of the film are taken up by talking heads directly addressing the camera. A scene of a burly Territorian in a singlet is not made more interesting by bringing his gut to the foreground. Cane Toads isn’t a bad documentary, it’s just one that is better suited to a Tuesday afternoon screening on ABC 2 than at the cinema.

Cane Toads: The Conquest 3D will be released into theatres in June 2011

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