Hike, The (2011)

The Hike (2011)

It’s all about survival

After returning from a tour in Afghanistan, a young female soldier heads off with four of her friends for a camping weekend in a remote area of British countryside. But when one of the girls goes missing, the remaining girls are plunged into a nightmarish world of violence in which survival is their only goal.

 

It isn’t very often that the Brits go down the survival horror route so beaten to death by their counterparts across The Pond but judging the ‘merits’ of The Hike, it’s a good job that this is the case. Not worried about breaking new ground and sticking to the genre script to the letter, The Hike might as well have ‘Made in America’ stuck all over it. It’s a bit sad to see the limited number of horror films that we make in the UK end up as generic and one-note as this. You’d hope that they’d come out all guns blazing and make the most of their situation. Not with The Hike.

The Hike starts off promisingly with a pre-credits sequence that is arguably better than the rest of the film put together but then quickly degenerates into a routine survival horror film where the attractive young female cast head out for a spot of bonding in natural surroundings (in many ways this film reminded me of Neil Marshal’s The Descent) only to fall foul of something nasty. Whilst the opening scenes serve as an introduction to the various characters, most of whom receive some minor development to at least flesh out their characters, they do go on for a while and outstay their welcome very early on. Red herrings are introduced. Some plot threads are set up for later in the film. And the scenery is very nice so credit to the cinematographer for some great shots of the British countryside.

Heading into this environment, there is the usual mix of stereotypical female characters with baggage of the male variety and tension in the ranks. I’d be hasten to add that these females are some of the worst written characters I’ve had the misfortune of watching. In fact their whole portrayal in the film is something I have issue with. Not wanting to get all feminist about them but it’s clear that they were written by men because everything about them just sets off warning bells. They’re clearly designed on the females from The Descent however unlike the strong female characters there, here they’re just fakes. Trying to buy the fact that one of their number is ex-army is a hard sell when she finds difficulty using a map and compass. Apart from being good-looking, the women also have their obligatory bikini scene when they go bathing. Not having a clue about hiking and spending some time in the woods, these women take all manner of silly things like designer handbags and fancy shoes. It’s cheap and lazy writing designed to portray these women as hopeless and clearly in danger from the minute they leave their car. These women flirt with any man that cross their paths, implying non-too-subtle messages about ‘wanting it’ but then reacting badly when they get ‘it.’ It’s a rather dangerous implication that is being put across here that these women are in some way responsible for their eventual treatment at the hands of the psychos.

If you’re going to go down the ‘rape revenge’ route that will immediately attract criticism then at least have the conviction to go down it fully it. The Hike dabbles in sexual violence and gory exploitation but rarely manages to make itself appear as shocking or brutal as it clearly wants to be. I don’t want to come off as some sex-obsessed schoolboy who giggles at a bit of titillation and lusts after wanton violence but The Hike really needed some more sexiness or nastiness. The draw of these films are those elements so to skimp on them is cheating the target demographic. As it turns out, The Hike is more ‘family friendly’ torture porn (not really, I’m exaggerating – do not show this to children!) where the director is clearly gunning for a certain niche but doesn’t have the convictions to fully go through with it.

Once the film takes its nastier turn, it becomes a mess of mildly gory set pieces, gaping wide holes in the script and random plot twists. There’s lots of running and wrestling in the woods and on the floor as various characters encounter each other in the dark. There are no thrills here, no excitement and, despite some obligatory slasher-lite stalking moments, there’s no tension or suspense. The finale sees the strongest members of both groups fighting for survival but we know how this will end from the first moment one of the males makes sexual advances earlier on in the film.

There’s a good-looking cast featuring the stunning Barbara Nedeljakova from Hostel, who convinced a generation of teenage boys that Eastern European hostels were filled with horny chicks like her, willing to drop their clothes in a heartbeat. Co-writer Ben Loyd-Holmes also stars as the leader of the psycho group which is a bit odd to discover, given the content of the film and who gets to do what to which character. Is this wishful thinking on his behalf by living out some bizarre fantasy? If I was writing a horror film like this, I’d want nothing to do with starring as people like me would put two and two together and wonder why he was cast (well that and the director was his co-writer). Cockeny rent-a-goon Tamer Hassan also pops up in a small cameo.

 

I do feel like I’m being overly harsh on The Hike because it’s not a total bomb but at the end of the day, it’s a lukewarm horror which is neither full-on torture porn nor outright slasher. It’s like ‘Horror for Dummies’ with some mildly offensive stuff thrown in, softening you up for the main event of Eden Lake or I Spit On Your Grave.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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