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  Wilderness Downward Bound
Year: 2006
Director: Michael J. Bassett
Stars: Sean Pertwee, Alex Reid, Toby Kebbell, Stephen Wight, Luke Neal, Ben McKay, Lenora Crichlow, Karly Greene, Adam Deacon, Richie Campbell, Stephen Don, John Travers, George Shane, Gordon Fulton, John Rea
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: At a young offenders institute there is a new arrival, Callum (Toby Kebbell), who the inmates in his dorm size up as potential victimisation material. But the ringleader of the tormentors, Steve (Stephen Wight), is more concerned with making the lives of Davie (John Travers) and Lindsay (Ben McKay) a misery, something he does with daily relish. However, this kind of behaviour has consequences, as the dorm discovers when they wake one morning to find Davie has killed himself by slashing his wrists. The governor is not pleased, so as punishment the boys are sent to the island...

Bullying became bigger news than ever before in the first decade of the twenty-first century, in Britain at any rate, and this was reflected in Wilderness, a horror that set out to show the impressionable viewer that it was no way to behave because you never know who you might be pissing off. You might have thought that highlighting the victims' feelings could have been a better way to achieving some kind of compassion and prevent these sorry situations arising, but that's not the way Dario Poloni's script approached the subject.

Well, it was a horror movie after all, and there's a scene with a counsellor trying to get the young thugs in touch with their sensitive sides that shows there are those who simply would not respond to this kind of treatment, according to this film anyway. So off they go to the island, which island precisely is never made clear, for an outward bound course in the middle of nowhere, and it seems to go much as you would expect with the hardship of the harsh conditions leavened by the fact that it resembles a holiday for them. Their leader is played by Sean Pertwee, and if you've ever seen him in a horror film it's almost inevitable how his character will end up.

But before that inevitable happens, the plot sows the seeds of unease with Steve and his righthand man Lewis (Luke Neal) encountering a poacher in the ruins of a castle, but director Michael J. Bassett cuts away before we see what they do to him. This is to make us wonder if they have killed him, for the poacher's mutilated body shows up soon after, but such an obvious misdirection that the film cannot wait to introduce its main antagonist. At first we're not sure who he is, but he does have a motive for picking off the party, and he uses an unusual weapon for a slasher movie: four well trained dogs who are ravenous for human flesh.

He also uses a crossbow, but you can't chase your prey through a forest with an arrow. Cleverly, the potential victims are not exactly sympathetic, yet we are put in the position of understanding that they may not be the most admirable of characters, but we don't necessarily want to see them die horribly. Of course, with the racist, homophobic, sexist, bullying Steve (hell of a collection of personality traits there) we do want to see him get his comeuppance, and the story keeps him around for as long as possible to give us a hate figure we can see, unlike the mysterious killer. Along the way the offenders meet a group of female counterparts, their leaders are disposed of, and there are some pretty fair action sequences to follow, with the low budget not hurting too much. Its lessons might be too out of the frying pan and into the fire for the real world, but in the context of a horror flick Wilderness does very well. Music by Mark Thomas.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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