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Wilderness (2006)
Director: Michael J. Bassett

review by Christopher Geary

"Don't go down to the woods today," warns the publicity blurb. But, look here, why on earth would you want to, when there's very probably nothing much of interest going on there anyway? This violent horror comes from the maker of British wartime gore-fest Deathwatch. That cross-genre 'chiller' had a bunch of unsympathetic characters finding evil lurking in the trenches of WWII. This new nasty shocker mixes Lord Of The Flies with Friday The 13th, as a group of borstal boys, sent away for a supposedly character-building campout on an uninhabited island, find themselves prey to vicious attacks by highly trained hunting dogs, and targeted by a crossbow toting bloke on a murder spree.

Jed (Sean Pertwee) is the young offenders' warden, given the unwelcome duty of trying to rehabilitate tearaways, senseless vandals, sicko junior thugs, dimwit bullies and cowardly toe-rags. Trainee psycho Steve (Stephen Wight) and lurch-brained Lewis (Luke Neal) compete with lockup dorm newcomer 'killer' Callum (Toby Kebbell) for 'top dog' dominance over the motley crew that includes misguided smart-arse Jethro (Richie Campell), gormless Blue (Adam Deacon), and victimised Lindsay (Ben McKay).

Even with the unexpected addition of stranded females on the island; stereotyped troublesome girls Jo (Karly Greene) and Mandy (Lenora Crichlow) are kept in check by no-nonsense Basra veteran Louise (Alex Reid), there are still no sympathetic characters for the audience to root for, let alone care about. Like the actions of the unseen stalker and assassin, the gruesomeness on display throughout Wilderness is unrelenting, but the only likely and sensibly cynical reaction is that we might scoff at the bloodthirsty death scene of another poor - but often stupid - unfortunate, and then simply wait (you won't be holding your breath, though) and see who's next in line for the mystery killer's chopping block.

Borrowings from The Most Dangerous Game (often cited as the most ripped-off movie plot of all time), and crudely dramatised musings on the essential futility of revenge, can't save this from becoming a rather boring adventure immediately after the departure of star Sean Pertwee's well intentioned but largely ineffectual 'nice guy'. Wilderness has plenty of visceral impact, of course (even for a cert. 15 flick), tied into the immersive backwoods setting and persuasive but risible characters, but it's insufficient for solid drama. Stacked against such genre standouts as Australia's genuinely terrifying Wolf Creek, the competent remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, similarly plotted thrillers like Wrong Turn, or even the likes of flawed but watchable Hostel, this offering seems very tame, and is - ultimately - unremarkable subgenre fodder with no serious message, and no measurable flair when it comes to communicating what little it does have to say.

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