Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

After a bullied dorm-mate commits suicide, six residents of a young offenders' institution are taken to a remote island for a character building exercise. They soon discover that the island has been double booked - a female warden is also there with two female prisoners (a purely gratuitous coincidence which has no real bearing on the plot). Unfortunately, as it turns out, this is the least of their troubles. There's also someone else on the island - someone who is hunting them, picking them off one by one, and from whom there seems to be no escape.

Following in the tradition of Dog Soldiers and The Descent, Wilderness has the potential to be a great little film, balancing the nastiness of its young protagonists against the trained viciousness of their foe, but sadly it never lives up to its potential.

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Most of the acting is very good, and there's some superb banter between the boys early on; it's just a shame that this is sacrificed to a series of horror movie clich├ęs which are ultimately far less interesting. As these develop, naturalistic dialogue is lost in favour of clumsy speeches which the cast are no longer able to deliver with conviction. As a result, though they do undergo some minor character development, it's hard to keep caring about them, especially as the most competent gets the least screen time.

This wouldn't be a problem if there was something else to enjoy instead, but the film's approach to horror is entirely by the book, even starting out with the appearance of little woven totems lifted straight from The Blair Witch Project. It's hard to flatter this with the term 'homage' when the film has nothing clever to say about it. Rather, pilfered imagery is scattered around the place almost fetishistically, as if the film hopes to draw on its power. Needless to say, the experiment is a failure.

If what you're looking for in a movie is a collection of chase sequences and some grisly violence, Wilderness does deliver, but there are plenty of films out there which do it better. Here, drawn-out scenes of gore (most notably Sean Pertwee being eaten alive by dogs) are substituted for the inventiveness and humour which often make this sort of horror work so well. Curiously, there are also several death scenes which completely fail to deliver - a boy being stabbed and scarcely even staining his t-shirt; another falling on his back on some rocks and lying there twitching unconvincingly.

The film has pretensions to Golding-esque horror when it comes to the boys' interaction, but this doesn't really deliver, since we knew they were nasty pieces of work to begin with. As for the principal plot, not only is it ludicrous, it's introduced with a clumsiness remarkable even within the slasher genre. Characters disappear and reappear with painful predicatbility (there's probably a drinking game in this), and, despite the potential offered by the island environment, everything seems to take place on five small outdoor sets, giving it an oddly theatrical feel.

There are worse films out there than this, but only because they couldn't afford such capable and hard-working actors. When more than a third of the critics at a press screening take five-minute toilet breaks, unprepared to sit through it all even when they're being paid to, it's clear one is in an entertainment wilderness.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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A group of young offenders find themselves being hunted on a remote island.
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Director: Michael J Basset

Writer: Dario Poloni

Starring: Richie Campell, Lenora Crichlow, Adam Deacon, Stephen Don, Karly Greene, Sean Pertwee

Year: 2006

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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If you like this, try:

The Blair Witch Project
Dog Soldiers