By Frances Winston
Directed by: Ben Wheatley – Starring: Joel Fry, Reece Shearsmith, Hayley Squires, Ellora Torchia, John Hollingworth, Mark Monero
In Irish cinemas now!
This horror flick, from writer and director, Wheatley, was completed in just 15 days in August last year. This is astonishing when you consider that the writing of a movie alone can take months, if not years. Clearly, he was feeling very inspired. I can’t imagine where he got the idea for a movie set in a world ravaged by a deadly virus, where people are struggling to develop a cure, or find ways to live in spite of the pandemic. Can’t imagine at all!
Of course this is just a trope to set up the plot. So don’t worry, you won’t have to watch people discussing the effects of a virus for the entire 107 minutes. Fry plays Martin Lowery, a scientist sent to a government-controlled outpost, to help in the studies and experiments of his former colleague and ex-lover, Dr. Olivia Wendle (Squires).
He and a colleague, Alma (Torchia) leave the safety of the outpost ,to hike through the woods to Olivia’s camp. Of course, being a horror film, you know that this won’t end well, and sure enough, they find themselves captured by a crazed man named Zach (Shearsmith) who claims that he needs them to help appease a presence in the woods.
Cue them trying to escape, him becoming even ore deranged, them finding Olivia, a super complex back story, and more hallucinogens than Jim Morrison consumed in the 60s, and you have all the ingredients for an extremely trippy kaleidoscope of horror.
This is very much reliant on tapping into people’s residual fears about the pandemic, and what the world will be like when this is all over. However, perhaps because I saw this just as we have some light at the end of the tunnel, with vaccinations and reopening, it didn’t affect me on that level whatsoever.
The cast are great, and even make some of the incredibly dense dialogue sound convincing. And the cinematography is fabulous. Although with such a lush setting, why wouldn’t it be? But the fact is that even by horror standards this is a bit all over the place. It seems to want to be all things to all people.
The ‘hikers captured in the woods’ thing has been done to death. It’s an easy horror plot that doesn’t require much in the way of locations. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but I felt there were one or two nods to The Blair Witch Project here.
Wheatley is to be commended for making this is such a tight time-frame, but I couldn’t help feeling that, with a bit more time, this would have been a far superior offering. It lacks the heart in mouth moments that you want from a horror film, and takes itself extremely seriously..
An interesting curio to add to to the annals of horror history, but unlikely to be more than a one-time watch for most.