Danny (Richard Pawulski) has gone on a camping trip. His loving parents are worried about what may happen to him as their son is Autistic. Their worst fears are about to be realised as three friends go down in the woods that day to give Danny a nasty surprise.
I know for most that the words ‘Based on True Events’ will cause a cynical eye-roll. A reaction that has become instinctual thanks to the dozens upon dozens of exorcism movies who have made the very same claim thanks to the kid from the late 40s who inspired the William Peter Blatty novel. However, in this case, those four familiar words are another way of saying, “This shit is actually happening in real life!”
Not only is this shit happening, the facts are so much worse than what is depicted in this movie. If you’ve kept up with the news over the past decade and beyond, you’ll know the victims are being drugged, tortured, led around like dogs – in a literal sense, held prisoner in garden sheds, forced to fall to their deaths and worse. The list is as long as it is sickening.
Bearing this in mind, I appreciate the profound sense of authenticity created by the efforts of the film’s actors as well as its co-writing / co-directing team. It’s the right approach, and not a surprising one considering Phillip Escott’s wonderful background in documentaries for some of the greatest cult and horror classics. Perhaps a little inspiration from Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972) has crept in there somewhere?
The cinematography is rife with irony as it lingers thoughtfully on the English countryside. Danny’s mother and father worry – among many things – that the elements may get the best of him. Ultimately it is cruelty of man, not nature, that is closing in on him. It makes you wonder which has less of a conscience. Sadly, all the trees can do is watch.
While I never give any time to ponder the acting abilities of soap stars, let alone watch any of their shows, Danny Miller, lead antagonist Nicholas, proves once again that Emmerdale does indeed yield some promising talent. He is the epitome of all-too accurate stereotype. His body language s persistently intimidating while he exudes an unflinching shark-like determination to see his mission – or ‘mish’ – to its end. Could he go on to be as good as Gilgun? Not if he stays stuck on the farm.
Natalie Martins is persuasive as Julia, playing her with the everyday heartache and insecurities that plague a young teenage mind. And despite the straightforward plot, she is the film’s most complex character as my opinions are admittedly conflicted. Youth doesn’t absolve anyone from responsibility, but the lack of knowledge and experience can call it into question. Pawulski’s interpretation of Danny is convincing and respectfully sympathetic.
A sobering drama that reminds us that the youths of Britain are still very much broken. It may not be as creepy or suspenseful as F (2010). It may not be as vicious as Eden Lake (2008). And it may not be as claustrophobic as Citadel (2012). But for what it lacks in gore, shock tactics and tried and tested horror parlour tricks, it upsets and disturbs with a clear and potent representation of the crueller side of society.