There are days when horror movie film school must sound like NBA practice.
“The key…is ISOLATION.”
Just as star players perform best when they get a one-on-one matchup with a foe, horror movies are built on villains invariably splitting up and dealing with our heroines or heroes in isolation. That gives the good guys a chance to stab, club or trick their way out of whatever hostage torture and murder scenario they’ve been written into.
“The Retreat” is about gay couples lured into the wilderness where they can be captured and and killed for their “lifestyle choices.” A rustic “gay BnB” for weekend getaways and celebrations? That may be the only joke in the movie.
Renee and Val are coming out for another couple’s pre-wedding celebration in the woods of early fall. They’re just at the stage where Val (Sarah Allen) is wondering “where this is going,” and Renee (Tommie-Amber Pirie) isn’t wanting to talk about it.
They won’t settle that at “The Retreat.” They won’t have time. The menace settles in before they leave the inevitable country convenience store stop every horror movie cast stops in before they head for “The Cabin in the Woods.”
The “Take Out Your Ex — One Bullet Oughta Do It” bumper sticker should be a warning. Ominous servings of “Did you hear that?” and “Is somebody watching us?” should seal the deal.
RUN. But no. The moment they get there, they’re hurled into the nightmare we’ve seen another gay couple endure in the film’s prologue.
All those camo masks and hunting accessories we saw in the store aren’t just for deer, you know.
The foreshadowing in Alyson Richards’ screenplay is textbook obvious. Renee grew up among rural hunters who “culled the (deer) herd” and dragged her along for it.
“Why do you think I live in the city?”
A flat tire, another trope of “cabin in the woods” horror, means in this case that we see a shot of the tire iron (actually a crow bar, which makes no sense) used in the repair.
Val? She’s “a scientist.” Got to figure that’ll play into the plot.
The perils they face are cliches and the characters hunting them are stereotypes who like poking through their phone photos post-capture.
“I’m gonna take a peek at your disgusting lifestyle, pervert!”
It’s a shot-in-the-back, victim-clutches-chest slasher pic, with much “quick and dirty” story telling and filmmaking in evidence.
But once our heroines get their “isolation,” the embattled stars give us reason to root for them.
“The Retreat” may be horror by the numbers, but there are solid reasons these character types and story tropes are recycled, again and again. As they teach you in horror film school, they endure because they work, even if they don’t have a prayer of surprising anybody as they do.
MPA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, profanity
Cast: Tommie-Amber Pirie, Sarah Allen, Aaron Ashmore and Celina Sinden
Credits: Directed by Pat Mills, script by Alyson Richards. A Quiver release.
Running time: 1:22