One of the freshest new serial killer films being shopped at Cannes and the like the past few months has been Glenn Withrow’s The Mooring. Its a solid horror film about a group of barely teenage girls who are addicted to technological devices, who have joined a rehabilitation camp with the intent of getting out into nature and away from electricity for a while. The only problem here, of course, is that nature is a wild beast that can not be tamed – and its spectrum includes predators. Not just animals. Man!
mooring: (n) a place where a boat is brought to rest, landside – tied to an object on land, or anchored at the shore.
The Mooring lets you know what you’re getting into right off the bat. Via prologue, ten years earlier, we see a twelve year old girl abducted from her family campsite. She’s beaten and dragged off into the woods and shoved into a small compartment on a boat.
The rest of this film takes place in the present. Camp Counselor Nancy (Hallie Todd) takes her girls down a quiet river along a mountainous outback of Idaho. After some very innocent natural camp fun and a little bonding, the boat shows signs of engine problems, so to be safe, Nancy ties the boat down and sets camp on shore for the night.
That late night, another boat strolls near and parks close by. Playful campfire kids accidentally draw the boats attention, and its about then that we learn: its the kidnapper (Thomas Wilson Brown) from the beginning, and his “hostage” is now a full grown woman who willingly lives with him. Her name is Mickey (Brooklyn Tate). Her teeth are brown, and her man is a beast, but its all a part of what she likes to call “Mountain livin”. She later becomes the wild card in what develops into a cold hearted, blood thirsty hunt.
There is a lot to like here.
First off its interesting to know where this film came from. Glenn Withrow, the director, has worked with Francis Ford Coppola five times (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Peggy Sue Got Married, The Cotton Club & Faerie Tale Theatre ‘Rip Van Winkle’) and sold his first script to Disney. And I bring up this non-horror background for a reason. His wife, Hallie Todd, is famous for playing Lizzie McGuire‘s mom on the Disney series and film, and has done work on Malcolm in the Middle and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The fact that these two collaborated to bring us a preteen/teen girl slaughter hunt film is pretty surprising – and pretty damned cool if you ask me.
The girls being terrorized here are nearly all complete newcomers. All fresh faces, you wont have to deal with any “model actors” – they’re all sweet girl next door types – and this added to the film’s realism factor. Played like a straight up Lifetime Family Special, it eventually leads into a cold hunt, as asthmatic and slower girls are sat up against trees and executed with rifles to the forehead. Its mostly insinuated, as opposed to graphically exposed, but its pretty brutal just the same.
The Mooring is different. It doesn’t play into your standard stalker scenario’s – doesn’t play out fishing for moments of suspense. It pretty much takes a realistic, natural course, letting the material darken you as opposed to going for over the top nonsensical horror thrills.
Director/writer Glenn Withrow talked to Bloody Disgusting about this. “I was drawn to the horror/thriller genre because I wanted to make something based on true occurrences that would scare me. My daughter was the same age as the girls in the film at the time of making it, and nothing was more frightening to me than the thought of having her go missing. The thought of what really happens to people who go missing in the wilderness was a big jumping off point in creating the film. Francis has always been very big on making his films his own way, and that was something I really appreciated and wanted to do after working with him.”
The Mooring is best for female fans of the genre, and parents who can identify with how horrible a situation this would really be. These aren’t high school grads – these are more middle school’ers. And that’s the kicker here – these sort of things do happen. Little girls get abducted and killed. Those looking for eye candy, graphics injuries, or twisty plots may wish to take it with a grain of salt.
The Mooring will darken you in its own unique, mildly suspenseful way. I liked that it wasn’t overly whiny, and I gave the resolution a big thumbs up when the credits rolled, but on the flip side of the coin, it has a low ceiling and only gets you so riled. The kills aren’t that far from PG-13 when they go down, per visual, and there are no huge mental aspects to chew on. So its a little soft on the brainiac and the hardcore gorehounds, and a bit mild for the adrenaline hunters. Its above average as a whole, and has certainly got its moments.
Here’s an idea. If you can manage to sneak this on (just past the initial abduction) in front of grandma, or some other soft auntie – she’ll get into it because it looks so innocent. Then the kills will go down, her hand will cover her eyes, and she’ll cough out her dentures. Try it. It’ll be fun.
Picked up by Grindstone, Lionsgate will distribute this in the US and Canada later in 2012. Run for your life little girls. There’s a no-nonsense killer in those woods looking for you.