There's a Scottish village for which, like many of its kind, fishing is the main industry, but venturing out on the sea to land the catches of the day can be a perilous occupation. Cathy (Kate Dickie) used to tell her sons a fairy story when they were young about how the Devil had emerged from beneath the waves to curse the village and take away its children, but she didn't anticipate just how accurate that would be when the first time her boys went out onto the ocean together there was a disaster which claimed the lives of all on board. Almost all, Cathy's youngest son Aaron (George Mackay) survived, but can recall nothing about the incident...
Tight knit Scottish communities have been an occasional concern for filmmakers ever since the movies caught on, from The Edge of the World to Whisky Galore! all the way up to the inevitable end point of the form, The Wicker Man, not that it stopped more of them getting produced. For Those in Peril was one of the serious ones, so the locals' idea of entertainment is beating rabbits to death and karaoke, though not necessarily in that order or even in that combination, and the superstition indicated by Cathy's yarn spoken in hushed tones over the opening montage is ingrained in their thinking, which will shape how they react to Aaron's return from tragedy they come to acknowledge he didn't deserve.
In that manner it was an examination of the unthinking, unreasoned prejudices of a small society, with Aaron the scapegoat for a grave event none of them could have done anything to prevent, so to try and wrestle some kind of control over it and their deeply wounded feelings they set about victimising the sole survivor in a "wrong men died" fashion. All very grim, and there was precious little cheer in writer and director Paul Wright's efforts, here graduating from short films to a feature, with even the colour pallete reduced to sombre blues and greys, not to mention stygian darkness. English actor George Mackay conjured up a creditable Scottish accent, but it wasn't the same one as the other actors, in its way making him subtly more alien to them.
Not that he needed much help in standing apart in his characterisation as Aaron suffers what would most likely be termed post-traumatic stress disorder and goes off the rails. Whether that was down to his guilt at losing his brother (who we see in home movie footage liberally intercut into the plotline), then being the only one to survive, or the ill-feeling at his return from his fellow villagers was up for debate, but it was probably a mixture of all three, yet whatever the reason he is cracking up under the pressure and sees but one method of regaining his self-respect and indeed his sanity. That is to bring back his brother, who as with the other victims was lost at sea, an impossibility you might think but the boy has it in his head that a sea monster has him.
You read that right, a sea monster, which introduces an element of magical realism to the proceedings, not something Wright copes with as smoothly as you might have hoped. He's on firmer ground with depicting the rather hackneyed vision of a terminally unfriendly Scottish town, perhaps because so many had been there before so he had something stronger to work with even if you might wish for one of these films to show such a group of people as welcoming and good natured, just for a change. As it was, Aaron roams around, acting more and more recklessly, as the locals alternately throw insults at him (he is unavoidably labelled a Jonah), threaten him, and if it looks as if he's going to turn dangerous be nicer to him to calm him down. Throughout this Cathy suffers in another unimaginative take on the harrassed mother Dickie could do in her sleep (though credit to her, she doesn't get lazy) as Aaron plans his takedown of that monster, drawing together the threads of plot to result in an ending unexpectedly silly, undercutting a solidly atmospheric tale of woe. Music by Erik Enocksson.