The UK is definitely doing something right, as they are rapidly cornering the market on a new breed of survival horror films. Next week the 2006 film Wilderness hits the DVD shelves in the U.S., and anyone who has seen the poster has a fair idea of what to expect. We are offered up decapitation, severed limbs, and hunting dogs that tear there victims apart. All I can really say is that Wilderness is brutally honest in its description. The UK is really beginning to form its own unique genre that is slowly refining itself with each progressive film.
This film is brought to us by Michael J. Bassett, the creative force behind the 2002 supernatural thriller Deathwatch. This time Bassett takes a realist approach with his antagonist, making the ruthless destructor human. Our film begins in a youth detention center, housing the more violent young offenders than your typical youth center. It is your standard bunch consisting of the bully and his sidekick, the bad ass loner, and the other riff-raffs soon to be potential dog chow.
The majority of the bunch, as in most prison scenarios, is ruthless when it comes to the smaller weaker inmates. Some unfortunate events regarding over-excessive bullying, lead the boys to be sent to an “uninhabited” island, owned by the prison system. The island is intended as a team building setting, where the boys can work together and build healthy relationships. Things soon become more complicated as the boys run into a women’s youth group who is there for the same reasons. Both groups were informed that they would be the only inhabitants of the island, creating some confusion. This adds a little complexity to the tale, and a little more cannon fodder. This island would be a great place to accomplish the goals of refining these young people, if it weren’t for the homicidal madman and his pack of vicious hunting dogs on the loose. Wilderness has numerous shock moments that would only be cheapened by further synopsis.
The identity of the killer does not remain a mystery for too long, and its revelation is quite impressive adding a little intrigue to the story. The film crosses the line between an action film and a horror film numerous times, but not in a bad way. When all was said and done I felt like I had just watched an action movie combined with survival horror elements, not necessarily one or the other. Don’t be misled by that statement. The film offers plenty of horror elements, and some incredibly ferocious kill scenes. Not only are we in danger of being stalked and killed by a commando style murderer, but we have about five ruthless hunting dogs to consider as well. Not to mention a trap or two whose simplicity, yet brutality would have Jigsaw grinning.
This film most resembles the elements of the UK film Severance. Wilderness quite similarly blends all of its elements together to create one hell of a wild ride. Much like Severance, once the killer’s identity has been revealed, the horror element start to make their slow descent. However there is no shortage of blood, gore, or body parts. This film offers some of the most brutal kills in recent memory, and Bassett is not afraid to show the aftermath of what happens when large dogs mean business. Unlike Severance, Wilderness never makes the move towards humor making the story much more serious in tone.
There are definitely a few moments in this film that will run a chill down your spine. This film would have scored a near perfect, but there are several moments that will leave the seasoned horror movie crowd scratching their heads. Also, a few of the decisions by our characters make you wonder how they made it to adulthood in the first place. Other than these minor shortcomings this film hits the mark on numerous levels.
I really hope that the UK continues its trend of survival horror films, and that they continue to improve upon the genre. I feel that there is a definite shortage in the area of horror films embracing the realist approach, especially when it comes to films involving a “slasher” adversary. This film is (for the most part) intelligent, original, and fun to watch. Did I mention violent? Although the carnage isn’t non-stop, it’s fairly strong and graphic throughout. In a perfect world, we would have been able to stroll down to the multiplex to check this out, but I guess DVD will have to do. A tagline for this movie reads “stay out of the woods”, however I recommend running downhill into the Wilderness.