REVIEWING ‘CARNIFEX’ – A CRYPTOZOOLOGY-THEMED CREATURE FEATURE FROM DOWN UNDER
reviewing-‘carnifex’-–-a-cryptozoology-themed-creature-feature-from-down-under

Cryptids | March 31, 2024

REVIEWING ‘CARNIFEX’ – A CRYPTOZOOLOGY-THEMED CREATURE FEATURE FROM DOWN UNDER

 

 
Publicity
poster for Carnifex, showing the characters
gazing up in awe at some formidable claw marks left upon a  tree trunk by a large unknown animal of seemingly
arboreal ability (© Sean Lahiff/Dancing Road Productions/Arclight Films/Universal
Pictures Content Group – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use
basis for educational/review purposes only)

Thanks to longstanding Australian FB
friend and crypto-enthusiast Tim Morris kindly making it available to me -
thanks Tim! – my movie watch on 26 October 2023 was the fairly recent Australian
cryptozoology-themed creature feature Carnifex.

Directed by Sean Lahiff, and released
just a year ago in December 2022 by Universal Pictures, Carnifex takes its name in a general sense from the Latin word for
'butcher' or even (during the Roman era) 'executioner'. However, wildlife enthusiasts,
especially cryptozoologists, will also be aware of its more specific,
zoological meaning.

Consequently, if you're of the latter
persuasion, you will have no doubt guessed straight away from this movie's
title that while conservationists Ben (Harry Greenwood) and Grace (Sisi
Stringer) accompanied by documentary camerawoman Bailey (Alexandra Park) are
uncovering and recording deep within the Australian outback the vast wildlife
devastation caused there by some recent, unprecedented bushfires, they also make
the startling, totally unexpected, and truly terrifying discovery of a living
marsupial lion Thylacoleo carnifex. For
once they do, they also discover – very swiftly – just how hyper-aggressive and
rapacious the creature is, forcing them into a desperate bid for survival against
this mega-belligerent blast from the past, their thoughts echoing only too emphatically
the film's tagline: "Some species should remain extinct".

This ferocious species was – or is? –  a predatory pouched mammal of feline form, leopard
or lioness stature (opinions vary), and possibly arboreal capabilities, but officially
deemed extinct for many millennia. However, some cryptozoologists feel that its
putative reclusive survival into the present day may explain occasional reports
of an Aussie mystery beast known as the yarri or Queensland tiger. It may even
have inspired the spoof killer koala called the drop bear (koalas and marsupial
lions were actually quite closely related). Most of this pertinent background information,
however, is never alluded to in the movie, sadly.

 
Yarri
or Queensland tiger, based upon eyewitness descriptions (© Dami Editore srl – reproduced
here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes
only)

Speaking of which: its build-up to this
very dramatic discovery, although very lengthy (see later), is engrossing, and
features a trio of lead likeable characters that interact well together,
interspersed with plenty of breathtaking shots of genuine Aussie Outback Nevertheless,
Carnifex suffers from two very
significant, crucial problems.

Firstly, once the story truly gets going,
it consists almost entirely of night-time scenes, resulting in actual sightings
of the creature (with totally black pelage, thereby rendering it even more difficult
to see against the darkness)  being as
shadowy and brief as they are seldom and inconclusive, i.e. plenty of growling
and flesh-tearing sounds, but visually all but non-existent.

Secondly, when in this 90-odd-minute
movie's last 10 minutes we finally - finally! - get to see two
blink-and-you'll-miss-them close-up full-face shots of the (very) anatagonistic
animal in question (so fleeting in fact that after seeing them I then had to
rewind and laboriously seek them out via freeze-frame in order to be sure of
what they actually revealed – something, incidentally, that cinema audiences
for this movie would not have had the luxury of being able to do), guess what?

The film makers had only gone and got
their Thylacoleo carnifex
fundamentally wrong – and after having kept their increasingly impatient
viewers waiting so long to see it properly too!

 
A
selection of photo-stills from Carnifex
depicting the latter beast's brief appearances and, especially, its dentition
– click picture montage to enlarge for viewing purposes
Sean Lahiff/Dancing Road Productions/Arclight Films/Universal Pictures Content
Group – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for
educational/review purposes only)

All placental carnivores have fangs
consisting of enlarged upper canine teeth (and so too, for that matter, does,
or did, the thylacine or Tasmanian marsupial wolf Thylacinus cynocephalus, officially deemed extinct in 1936 but
which may still linger on in this island's more remote regions). In stark
contrast, conversely, the tusk-like fang counterparts of Thylacoleo were actually greatly-enlarged upper incisors (it also
sported a pair of extremely enlarged lower incisors, but its upper canines were
only very small and stubby). Yet in this movie, its Thylacoleo has been given enlarged upper canines, not incisors,
thereby rendering their Carnifex dentally deranged!

Moreover, the two close-up shots of its
front paws also revealed a telling absence of the huge thumb claw constituting
another morphologcal characteristic of this unique predator.

Judging from these major morphological discrepancies,
I can only assume that someone apparently hadn't done their zoological homework
when researching T. carnifex for this
Carnifex-entitled movie. Needless to say,
this is a great shame, especially as otherwise it is a most enjoyable film, with
engaging characters amid the savage beauty of the Australian bush, and it would
have been a wonderful showcase for a truly original animal antagonist never
previously represented in a cinematic role.

Then again, it is fair to say that many viewers
are unlikely to have in-depth knowledge of thylacoleonid dentition anyway. So they
will simply not notice or recognize the inaccuracy of the latter's depiction in
this movie (particularly as it has no effect upon the plot itself), thereby enabling
them to enjoy the movie as an otherwise very watchable, well-presented conservation-minded
creature feature, especially one produced by a small independent film company as
opposed to a mega-bucks Hollywood studio. Also on the positive side, it does
mean that a morphologically-accurate 'living Thylacoleo'-themed monster movie is still waiting to be made.

 
Thylacoleo carnifex model produced by Jeff Johnson and owned by Rebecca Lang, two longstanding
Facebook friends of mine (© Jeff Johnson/Rebecca Lang – reproduced here on a strictly
non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

Incidentally, a novel written by
Australian horror author Matthew J. Hellscream (I'm guessing that this may be a
pseudonym…) that was published in 2016, i.e. 6 years before the present movie under review here was released, was also
entitled Carnifex, and also featured some
visitors to a remote area of the Australian bush encountering living but scientifically-undiscovered
marsupial lions. According to various Adelaide
Advertiser
articles, Hellstream took legal advice when the movie came out
because of perceived title and plot similarities, but that is not what I am
concerned with here. What I am
concerned with is that the very striking illustration of one such beast present
on the front cover of Hellstream's novel depicts it with totally accurate
dentition – click here to view it, and take note of the
greatly enlarged incisors, and all but absent canines, plus the shearing blade-like
carnassials further back.

I don't own a copy of this novel (yet),
but I've heard tell that the cover artwork was prepared by acclaimed horror
artist Frank Walls, who created the front cover for Hellscream's previous
novel, Metro 7, but I can't confirm this.
Whoever did design it, however, clearly made the effort to portray accurately the
unique dentition of this truly unique mammalian predator.

Anyway, if you'd like to peer through the
darkness of the Outback at night in search of the toothy terror lurking in this
movie, be sure to click here to watch an official Carnifex trailer on YouTube.

Finally:
this review originally appeared in ShukerNature's fellow blog, Shuker In MovieLand. To view a complete chronological listing of all of my Shuker In MovieLand
blog's other film reviews and articles (each one instantly accessible via a
direct clickable link), please click HERE,
and please click HERE to view a
complete fully-clickable alphabetical listing of them.

 
My
book
Still In
Search Of Prehistoric Survivors

(2016), which contains a very comprehensive coverage of the yarri or Queensland
tiger, and featuring prominently in the bottom-left portion of its front cover
an artistic representation by cryptozoology artist William M. Rebsamen of what
this elusive, mysterious creature may look like if it is indeed a surviving
representative of the marsupial lion Thylacoleo
carnifex
, complete with accurate dental depiction for the latter species (©
Dr Karl Shuker/William M. Rebsamen/Coachwhip Publications)

 

Post Source: https://karlshuker.blogspot.com/2024/03/reviewing-carnifex-cryptozoology-themed.html

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