Friday, March 23, 2007

Wilderness (2006)

Wilderness combines the clever booby traps of Saw, the isolated location and race for survival of Battle Royale, a slasher AND revenge-style story and buckets of gore sure to please any gorehound. These elements come together and create a highly entertaining film!

A group of male juvenile offenders is sent to an uninhabited island to be taught a lesson after one of their jail mates commits suicide after incessant bullying. The boys find ominous Blair Witch-like talismans in the wood and stumble upon another campsite…that turns out to belong to a group of female offenders who have been sent there with their warden for similar rehabilitation. Still, who do the talismans belong to and why do they feel like they are being watched? Soon, they all discover they are being stalked by a crossbow wielding killer and his pack of vicious dogs. The two groups must band together to survive, but as the killer hunts them down, the young criminals quickly begin to turn on one another. Can the group survive booby traps, the pack of dogs, the killer and each other and get off the island?

I didn’t have high hopes going into this film and really thought it was just going to be a big exploitative mess. Wow, was I wrong! Everything, from the acting to the cinematography to the character and story development, was great! I especially enjoyed how each character was slowly revealed through their actions as the film progressed. When the film starts, we know very little about each offender’s history and reason for being imprisoned. As the story unfolds, it is revealed how violent each character actually is and how dangerous the characters are to each other. Though it is pretty obvious who is hunting the kids, it does not take away from the overall enjoyment of the movie. The killer is a master at camouflaging himself in the wilderness of the island and is often right under the kids’ noses without them even realizing it. The instances where he just pops out of nowhere in full special-ops garb are truly startling and creepy.

Speaking of creepy, some of the booby traps the killer sets are very inventive and reminded me a lot of the Saw movies. Incendiary devices, bear traps, trip wires and more are all cleverly used by the killer. He also uses his trusty crossbow (sometimes with flaming arrows, other times with just plain, pointy ones) as well as his attack dogs, which he can control with just a whistle to rip out the throat of whomever he wishes. The gore here is very intense and bloody. People’s limbs are torn off, people are ripped apart by dogs, decapitated, lit on fire and skewered by the killer’s arrows, among other tortures. The inventiveness of the death scenes is impressive, especially for a film that hasn’t gotten that much attention here or in its native Britain.

Visually, this film is beautiful, with aerial shots of the rocky coast and heavily forested island. There is no flashy camera work here, just solid, fast-paced action shots that actually show us what is happening. The story is basically that of a slasher – a group of young teens is isolated from grown-ups and help while a killer with a vendetta against them kills them one by one. Mix the slasher concept with some survivalist elements, add a healthy dose of character development that makes the kids criminals, drop them on an English island and you’ve got Wilderness!

Wilderness is great fun, especially when I was expecting a trashy survivalist movie and instead saw something that is almost on par with other great films coming out of the UK like The Descent and Dog Soldiers. I highly suggest you check this film out! I don’t know what there’s not to love!

Available from Amazon!

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