While it makes no pretense of being anything other than a schlocky slash-’em-up horror flick, “Wilderness” nevertheless marks a substantial improvement over helmer Michael J. Bassett’s poor debut “Deathwatch.” This modestly-budgeted yarn about a motley crew of juvenile delinquents who get stranded on a remote island with a killer after them will deliver sufficient gore, cheap laughs and programmatic shocks to amuse its target teen aud. Pic was practically lost in the B.O. chart wilderness after its opening weekend in Blighty where it took some £9,000 ($16,000) off 10 screens, but should make good on ancillary.
Prologue set in a Young Offenders Institute establishes the ruthless bullying among the teen inmates — particularly from thuggish but quick on the quip skinhead Steve (impressive presence Stephen Wight) and his sidekick Lewis (Luke Neal) — that leads one vulnerable boy, Davie (John Travers), to slit his wrist in the dorm one night.
In order to teach the kids “a bloody lesson,” gruff guard Jed (Sean Pertwee, reviving memories of his turn in “Dog Soldiers” which “Wilderness” strongly resembles) is assigned to lead six of Davie’s fellow dorm mates on an expedition to an uninhabited island where team-building skills are to be learned through outdoorsy challenges.
Turns out the island has been double-booked for a similar exercise for two femme young offenders (Lenora Crichlow, Karly Greene) under the supervision of tough but fair Gulf War veteran Louise (Alex Reid, still in toned condition after “The Descent”).
The combined brood is learning the hard way about cooperation, when an ace archer starts firing at them with a crossbow and his pack of vicious German shepherds attacks. As the characters are picked off one by one in increasingly gruesome ways (well rendered by prosthetic make-up artist Geoff Portass), tough-nut loner Callum (Toby Kebbell) emerges as a natural leader, albeit with serious anger-management issues.
Tight, by-the-book script, credited to Dario Poloni, moves the action at a predictable clip, and knows when to pause for a tension-breaking wisecrack from one of the ensemble or a quieter spooky moment.
Casting directors should take note of pic given its promising young talents, notably Kebbell and Wight.
A few too-many lazily assembled hyper-fast montages are deployed to create shock and awe in the dog-attack sequences, but otherwise tech package is fine.