Wilderness (2006)

Wilderness (2006)

It’s not about revenge. It’s about punishment.

A group of young offenders are sent away to a military boot camp on a remote and supposedly uninhabited island to be taught some serious lessons after one of their number commits suicide, brought on by months of bullying. However they don’t realise that a psychopath waits for them on the island – someone trained and equipped as experienced hunter and determined to make them pay for what they have done via a serious of gruesome booby traps.


It’s good to see the UK film industry finally getting back on track with horror films. I mean after all, the British gave the world Hammer Horror, which revolutionised the way we looked at horror films back in the late 50s. With the demise of Hammer and the rise of more splatter orientated flicks in the 70s, British horror suffered a dramatic death which it has only begun to claw its way back from. Like them or not, I’ll at least applaud the efforts of the likes of Dog Soldiers, Creep, The Descent, 28 Days Later and many others to try and rekindle that old magic using different approaches and methods of execution. All of them look to have minor budgets but that’s no barrier for creative and passionate people in front of and behind the camera.

You can tell a good British horror apart from its American counterparts as, on the whole, they’re not as insulting to your intelligence. They’re reasonably believable (Dog Soldiers did such a good job of creating believable werewolves, you’d have thought the species actually existed), have decent scripts on the whole and generally try and avoid as many of the clichés as possible (how many of the recent British horror flicks have a young cast of Hollywood types that plague American horrors?) and make the best use of the tricks of the horror trade as opposed to just throwing as much money into the film as possible.

Slotting in to the whole equation is Wilderness, the second directorial effort from Michael J. Bassett who brought us the interesting-but-shallow Deathwatch. Wilderness isn’t going to win any awards for originality and runs like a cross between Dog Soldiers, Saw, Deliverance and Scum, weaving elements from them together to create a patchwork horror flick. It starts off harshly enough inside the prison where the young offenders are given their character development so that you know who to really boo later on in the film. Foreign viewers may have a hard time understanding some of these guys as well – the skinheads with ropey accents so commonly associated with our prisons. The script doesn’t do them any favours either, with lots of street dialogue that upper-crust residents of this island would have trouble understanding. With the exception of Sean Pertwee and Alex Reid, the rest of the cast seems to have limited acting experience, which actually helps in this situation because the characters aren’t overacting or thinking too hard about how they’re coming off on camera. Their inexperience greatly adds to the realism that the remoteness of the island brings. I like to see a film which really makes good use of its location and, just like Dog Soldiers, the woodland setting here is top notch. The eerie silence is golden and a clear sign of their distance from help and the woodland comes alive with shadows and all sorts of mirages. Think you see something lurking in the distance? There’s a good possibility that you have.

But come on, it’s time to get down to the crunch. All of the quotes on the cover proclaim it to be brutal, gory, etc. Well it is! It’s not as nasty as I was expecting but there’s some great gore including the killer sending his hungry dogs to dish out their own brand of justice on one of the characters (and there’s not a great deal left to the imagination). There’s also a nasty moment involving a minefield of bear traps into which one unfortunate character falls into. The booby trap aspect isn’t as evident as I was expecting either but you can see the influence of Saw on modern horror with the harsh tone it takes towards death. No longer do guys in these films run around killing people with machetes or axes, it’s all about being as creative and as nasty as possible and showing all of its glory on the screen.

However whilst the film tries to get creative, it fails to live up to its potential. The ‘hunted becomes the hunter’ theme throughout the final third doesn’t sit that well with the rest of the flick and the unveiling of the killer and his motive isn’t really that shocking. You don’t need to be Einstein to work out the whole revenge plot from the start so at least the film spares us the indignity of pretending to play ignorant with us. The characters, whilst believable and well-acted, are just a pack of bastards. Kudos to Stephen Wright who makes his skinhead rebel to be one of the most obnoxious and horrible characters I’ve seen for a long while. But when there’s no one to root for, who are we supposed to be gunning for? The hunter who wants revenge for his son being bullied or the bastards who bullied him? Some of the characters’ transformations when they are forced to get primitive are a bit far-fetched too, including the main guy who suddenly develops into a better hunter than the ex-soldier who is killing them!


Wilderness shows promise and is certainly a big step up from Deathwatch for Michael J. Bassett. It’s a lot more involving, very rough and gritty and throws out plenty of gore and brutality for shock value. Unfortunately we’ve already been there before and it lacks that little extra magic that would make you want to watch it again. However if his next film shows as much improvement on this as this did with Deathwatch, then I can’t wait.





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