Wilderness (2006)

Directed By: Michael J. Bassett
Written By: Dario Poloni
Starring: Sean Pertwee
  Alex Reid
  Toby Kebbell
  Stephen Wight

Wilderness is a harsh, nasty little horror film that, despite a number of weaknesses, is hugely enjoyable. It takes a simple premise and fills it with enjoyable characters and inventive turns that keep you engaged throughout. A decent British horror film that packs a brutal punch.

The plot is relatively simplistic – in a juvenile prison facility, young weaklings Davie and Lindsay are being horribly bullied by Steve and Lewis while the other inmates staunchly ignore their plight, including new boy Callum (Toby Kebbell). When they find Davie with his wrists slashed one morning, the governor tells Prison Guard Jed (Sean Pertwee) to send them off to “The Island”… and here the carnage really begins. What is supposed to be a rehabilitating experience in the wilderness turns a little sour when they realize they are not alone on the uninhabited island – someone has followed them there. Someone with a crossbow and four very angry dogs.

Although a relatively simple cat n’ mouse horror-in-the-wilderness story, the characterization really pulls the piece together. Wilderness features an outstanding performance from Toby Kebbell (Dead Man’s Shoes) and decent turns from Alex Reid, Stephen Wight and the always dependable Sean Pertwee. Although all the characters are flawed, some psychotically so, they are understandable if not entirely sympathetic (they are all criminals, after all). Each has a distinct voice and an interesting arc, and you’ll find yourself surprisingly saddened by their deaths, which is rare for horror films where disposable characters often mean disposable personalities. If the audience can push past the fact that some of these kids are underclass criminals but actually have heart and spirit, then the experience is enjoyable, yet if they are viewed with the blinkered vision of a seasoned youth-hater it might be a tough ride to endure… although their subsequent horrible deaths might amuse and delight.

Featuring flaming arrows, human barbeques, mantraps, beheading and some vicious animal attacks, Wilderness has some pretty grim and violent moments to appease the gore hounds and contains seasoned genre-favourites Sean Pertwee and Alex Reid, who keep a solid sense of gravitas amongst the youthful cast.

The latter third of the film peters off slightly into an almost sped-up version of Lord of the Flies, forcing some great moments to seem incongruous and utterly extreme. Some may also find the antagonist ridiculous and frankly laughable, but whilst he remains an unknown entity he is a disturbing foe with some blood-thirsty hounds at his disposal.

Despite covering no new ground, featuring some overly mild coincidences and having a tenuous twist or two, Wilderness is exciting, bloody and thoroughly enjoyable. Leave your youth-related prejudices at the door and dive right it – this is brutally fun.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

3 Comments on “Wilderness”

  1. Sarah Law says:

    I like Wilderness and I like this review. I’d have been tempted to give it 7 out of 10 just because it was so visceral though. Even the torture porn flicks that claim to be really nasty don’t come close to the wince-factor in this.

    Y’know, I watched Rock ‘n’ Rolla a couple of months back and it took me bloody ages to figure out that it was Toby Kebbell in the loser, rockstar role! Testament to his acting skills, I reckon :)

  2. Jamie Carruthers says:

    I loved this just because I love watching Sean Pertwee die (as he does in every genre roll he ever undertakes).

  3. Rag says:

    I may be a few years behind the curve. But I’ve just seen it and wanted to chip in. It is well worth a watch (and it’s on Netflix [are we allowed to inadvertently advertise ppl that aren't helpin fund the site? Oh, there's an ad down there. Ok, I'm safe])

    It had a serious feel of Dog Soldiers for me. Although it could be argued that this is due to a British production, and the estimed Mr P (who engenders huge respect from me, even though his performances all have a striking similarity).

    This film is also noteable cos I agree with ALL of the reviewers. Mr S is right that, after the talk up our hidden antagonist had, when he showed his face it was a bit limp on his part. Miss L was spot on with uping the skulls to 7. And as Mr C said… It’s always nice to see Sean Pertwee being [SPOILER] by [SPOILER]s.

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