Just a little walk in the woods — Mother, son, Mom’s best friend. Summer, a like, a little peace and quiet. What could go wrong?
You don’t know much about “Desolation” in the movies, do you?
A grieving wife (Jaime Paige), her just-turned-teen son (Toby Nichols) and her best friend (Alyshia Ochse) figure a camping trip will help one and all cope with death.
Sam is 13, looking 11, and picks this moment to start his teenage rebellion.
Abbey and BFF Jen? They share wine, smoke a little weed after the boy goes to sleep, giggle through the tears and cry their way “up the mountain.”
The kid saw someone — “The Hiker,” across the lake earlier. Dark hoodie, beard, rose-colored glasses. Kevin Smith?
And he’s watching them.
The women are spooked, the lad? “He looks like a wizard.”
“You know what, let’s go — leave this guy in the dust.”
Every time they see him, he’s a bit closer. Yelling, “How’s it going?” doesn’t defuse the tension. Jen wants to confront him. Abbey doesn’t. “Because he’s weird.”
They try to outrun him, duck him. And fail. Every so often, he disappears.
The kid wants to know if they’re scared and doesn’t believe their answers.
“Should I start a fire?”
“No, not tonight sweetie.”
Late night, they’re treated to tape-recorded ’50s ballad serenades. Weird and weirder.
It’s only when they become separated, facing their terrors in the dark alone, that we get glimpses of the villain’s knife, bottles of chemicals, his shades. Hell, it IS Kevin Smith! (Claude Duhamel, actually).
A 76 minute movie has to be efficient, and “Desolation” only feels that way on occasion. It takes 20 minutes to get up and going, lots of foreshadowing — the mother packed “bear spray,” the boy has his late father’s Swiss Army knife and a yen for carving sharp sticks.
The adults are fine, the kid (“Trumbo,” TV’s “Iron Fist” and “Underground”) is on-the-money, pouty and out of his depth, eager to lose “victim” and take on “aggressor” in this dilemma.
But there’s nothing surprising in this backwoods (upstate New York) variation on a torture porn theme. The stalker doesn’t speak, the prey doesn’t shut up. They’ll never lose this guy in the woods, these noisy chatterboxes.
Even the climax has a savage predictability to it — everyone but the characters on screen can see it coming.
Netflixable? Not so much.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Running time: 1:16