Wilderness

Wilderness is now available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Wilderness (2006) – Rated R

“The tough teen inmates of a juvenile institution are dropped in a dense forest, where they’re expected to learn how to work as a team. But their backwoods rehabilitation hits a snag when a crazed archer starts picking off the delinquents one by one.”

“Listen I don’t want your lads anywhere near my girls. They are in enough trouble already.” – “I mean I’m not delighted about the situation myself. I’ve got a couple of drug dealers, a violent sociopath, an armed robber, a murderer, and a serial sex offender.”

Wilderness is a very well constructed ‘slasher’ movie. Writer Dario Poloni has only written two titles, Wilderness and Black Death, both of which are excellent. This is a slasher with believable characters making believable good and bad choices. The villain is initially mysterious but ultimately well fleshed-out.

Director Michael J. Bassett handles things well from the austerity of the prison facility to the lush wilderness of the title. I enjoyed Bassett’s Solomon Kane (2009) and Deathwatch (2002) even though they were misfires. Unfortunately Bassett’s latest, Silent Hill Revelation, just came out to some dismal reviews. That said everything in Wilderness seems to work quite well.

Maybe it’s a throwback to the days of Hammer but I love a good British cast in a horror movie. I am much more likely to find decent acting in a British film than in an American one. This is perhaps because of the ridiculous number of low-budget American horror movies but is also due to the trend in American movies of casting the best looking actors (what I like to call the CW Effect).

Top-billed Sean Pertwee is definitely not a male model but is an actor I love to see in horror movies. He always adds a sense of gravity to the proceedings, particularly in Dog Soldiers. Here he plays Jed, a monitor for a bunch of juvenile delinquents.

Toby Kebbell plays our lead juvenile, Callum. He has notably gone on to play the off-his-rocker Johnny Quid in RocknRolla and John Wilkes Booth in The Conspirator. Alex Reid, Beth in The Descent, plays Louise. Stephen Wight and Luke Neal play the vicious bullies, Steve and Lewis. Stephen Don makes an impression as the father of one of the inmates.

The film is unpleasant, as it should be, during the brief juvenile prison sequence. None of the inmates are exactly what you could call likable. Steve and Lewis are the main bullies but none of the other inmates lift a finger while the lower caste are being tortured and humiliated.

The visit to the island starts off as a sort of wilderness boot camp until everything goes wrong. While the characters are inmates. we do learn some sympathy for a few but, as in Lord of the Flies, the situation causes the baser instincts to come out and the inmates turn on each other.

While Wilderness has thriller elements with a bit of mystery tucked in, it is firmly in the horror category as a killer stalks the group, picking them off one by one. The tension is thick and the gore is plentiful.

People Watch: Lenora Crichlow, who plays Mandy, would go on to play the ghostly Annie in the UK version of Being Human.