“The Descent without the caves. Or monsters.”
Five young women head out into the country for a camping trip, led by Kate (Phythian), a former soldier who is stil traumatized by seeing her boyfriend killed in front of her while on a mission in the Middle East. She’s about the only member of the party who seems genuinely keen on the trip, and it’s not long before the others start to whine, demanding rest stops, and the hike is curtailed before the intended destination. At least the country is not entirely deserted, though the creepy East European guy and his two women isn’t exactly sociable. But at least there are the three nice guys, out for a spot of rock-climbing, led by Ethan (Loyd Holmes), so there’s always that. And if things end up getting dicey – say, if one of the women vanishes mysteriously, while out gathering firewood, the others can turn to Ethan and his chums for help. Right? Right?
With a bit more thought on characterization and dialogue, this could have been an effective exercise. When I say, “a bit,” I probably mean “an awful lot,” as apart from Kate, the women are at best flat and two-dimensional, and at worst, actively and significantly irritating. Do women really act and sound like that? It may be relevant the script was written by two men, and there are few surprises to be found here (especially if you’ve seen Eden Lake, a similarly-themed “rural nightmare” flick from the UK). The progression is so obvious that it doesn’t even count as a spoiler to reveal that Kate ends up the ‘final girl’, and it’s likely significant that the more the film focuses on her struggles for survival, the more effective it becomes, to the point where the last reel eventually delivers the tension and energy I’d hoped to see from the beginning.
It definitely does owe some inspiration to The Descent: I don’t think it’s coincidence that Shauna McDonald has a small role as Ethan’s wife. However, I also note Nedeljacova’s role in the Hostel series, which perhaps has rather more in common with this, as the movie relishes the rape and degradation elements to a greater degree than I like. Phythian does what she can with the role and comes over as a decent heroine, who goes through hell and back again over the course of 24 hours. However, there are plenty of better entries in the genre, and little otherwise to recommend this one.
Dir: Rupert Bryan
Star: Zara Phythian, Ben Loyd Holmes, Barbara Nedeljacova, Daniel Caren