HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

WILDERNESS -- movie review by porfle

(Note: this review originally appeared online in 2006.)

WILDERNESS (2006) begins in the Moorgate Young Offenders Institution somewhere in the UK, where two cowering milquetoasts named David (Owen McHugh) and Lindsay (Ben McKay) are constantly terrorized and degraded by a sadistic psycho-punk named Steve (Stephen Wight) and his musclebound, dimwitted toady, Lewis (Luke Neal). When Steve and Lewis corner their victims in a closet one day and gleefully urinate all over them, David quite understandably considers this the last straw and slits his wrists that night. The warden regards everyone in David's unit to be equally guilty of driving him to suicide, so they're all sent off for a stretch on "the island."

I don't know if this is meant to punish them by depriving these city boys of the relative comforts of "home", or to help rehabilitate the lads by turning them into Boy Scouts, but basically what it entails is hiking and camping on a goverment-owned island under the watchful eye of their group leader, Jed (Sean Pertwee, EVENT HORIZON, SOLDIER). But they find that they're not alone on the island--a group of young girls, led by Louise (Alex Reed, THE DESCENT), are there for a similar purpose. The adults agree that it would be best for the two groups to stay on opposite sides of the island, but Lewis and one of the girls, Jo (Karly Greene), form an instant attraction and meet later that night in the woods for some hot, sweaty "Uhh! Uhh!" while a slasher-style POV camera eavesdrops from a distance. We know somebody's out there, and it's a sure bet he ain't Jeff Probst.

The next day, a homeless man who's been living in the nearby ruins of a monastery is found brutally killed, and everyone blames the mysterious, sullen new inmate, Callum (Toby Kebbell, DEAD MAN'S SHOES), who found the body--until Louise notices that the dead man appears to have been ravaged by a wild animal. Later, when Jethro (Richie Campbell) goes to the river to get water and fails to return, two boys sent to retrieve him discover a bloody, ripped-off arm floating by. (Thus, Jethro fulfills the old horror movie tradition of The Black Guy Who Gets Killed First.) After the boys make haste back to camp to tell Jed and Louise, all hell breaks loose when one of the main characters suddenly begins to sprout crossbow arrows in his chest and a pack of vicious, bloodthirsty dogs descends upon them from out of the woods. Everyone who is still ambulatory hauls ass at top speed in the other direction while the dogs, prompted by the whistled commands of an unseen master, proceed to chow down on Victim #2 like he was a giant Beggin' Strip.

This is the point where we are shown in no uncertain terms that WILDERNESS is, ultimately, an all-stops-out gory horror flick. We watch as the camera records in loving detail the dogs feasting upon face, fingers, and innards as gouts of blood lavishly decorate our view. And if you're a gorehound who finds delight in such goings-on, there's more to come as our youthful protagonists flee for their lives while being relentlessly hunted by their unknown assailant and his killer canines. They're shot, set on fire, beheaded, chewed on some more by the dogs, and one of them even gets his face caught in a bear trap. Yee-owch! That's gotta hurt.

Callum takes command of the group (mainly because he's the one with the knife) and leads them toward the shore in search of the boat. But just when they could all benefit from a little teamwork, perpetually-psychotic Steve continues to do just what his wacky li'l id tells him to do and screws everything up for everyone else. Callum, meanwhile, finally gets fed up with being a human doggy treat and gives full vent to his feral side, counter-stalking the stalker and setting the stage for a bloody showdown.

The best thing about all of this is that director Michael J. Bassett (DEATHWATCH) and screenwriters Ryan Hendrick and Dario Poloni have finally taken the old worn-out stalker/slasher formula, which has been ineptly rehashed so many times over the years, and shown us and all the would-be Sean Cunninghams out there how to do it right. There are no long, boring sequences of the next victim wandering around aimlessly while we wait for the killer to strike, which nine times out of ten are a clumsily-handled yawn anyway. This is one of those films that really lives up to all the old blurbs like "pulse-pounding!" and "edge-of-your-seat suspense!" The action scenes, augmented by a "pulse-pounding!" musical score by Mark Thomas that will keep your heart racing like a bunny rabbit, are genuinely thrilling.

Who is the mysterious killer, and why is he hunting these people down in the WILDERNESS and slaughtering them? Well, he ain't no lame Gorton's Fisherman, but he does know what they did last summer. Or last week, anyway. And he's not too happy about it.

Buy it at


No comments: