Sunday, July 8, 2012

Horror Film Review

Retreat (2011):  If you're going to make a film this depressing, could you include at least one redeeming quality, please?  No?  Fine.  Then no positive review for you.  Don't get me wrong.  A movie can be depressing as well as excellent.  Think Schindler's List or Philadelphia.  A movie can also be depressing and not so excellent but still not suck.  Think Dawn of the Dead or The Blair Witch ProjectRetreat annoyed me not only because it's depressing.  It is.  What really honked me off was that in the end, I felt totally manipulated.  There's a difference between a film that keeps you guessing and one that screws with your emotions in order to create a "twist" ending.  That said, the rest of my review will be nothing but spoilers.

 I'm sure you recognize the three main players (Retreat has a total cast of five, by the way).  Cillian Murphy (Red Eye, the new Batman films) plays Martin.  Thandie Newton (2012, W.) plays Martin's wife, Kate.  Jamie Bell (Deathwatch, Billy Elliot) plays Jack.  So Martin and Kate return to the remote island they first visited early in their marriage when they were happy and not full of passive aggressive angst brought on by the stillbirth of their child as they are  now.  If this sounds familiar somehow, it's not just you.  It's as trite a conceit in horror as kids partying in a cabin in the woods.  Anyway, they're dropped off by owner Doug (Jimmy Yuill, who reminds me of Papa Hemingway).  The cottage screams English countryside.  It's rustic but has a generator and a CB through which they can reach Doug if there's a problem.  You guessed cell phone signal.  Martin and Kate settle in, brood a lot, snipe at each other, and generally irritate the hell out of me.  Oh, yeah.  Kate's writing some kind of article and we're led by the nose to understand she has some grand secret that could very well destroy her marriage.  Then the generator takes a crap, Martin nearly kills himself attempting to administer repairs, and Doug promises to come the next day with a doctor.  At this point, Jack enters the picture.

Martin and Kate see a guy stumbling away from the shore and then collapse.  They get him inside, plunk him down next to the fire, and then notice the pistol stuffed in his belt.  A scene heavy with fake tension is created for Martin to take the gun away from the unconscious Jack.  Remember what I said about manipulation?  Anyway, Jack eventually wakes up, explains he's in the army and that a virus from South America has swept the globe which prompted a recon of the island for a possible safe haven.  I honestly can't remember how Jack came to be injured and stumbling away from the shore (and honestly, it doesn't matter).  In a bit of a panic, Jack orders Martin and Kate to help him board up the cottage to keep out the infected folks who he insists will be along any minute.  They're skeptical, of course, but go along. you may expect...Jack turns psycho and locks them in their room.  Is there really a pandemic or is Jack just some random nutjob?  Truth?  Neither. 

Martin sneaks out, discovers Jack has killed Doug and his wife (Marilyn Mantle) down by the boat landing, fetches a shotgun from a shed, then sneaks back in.  Nothing good happens after this.  Martin and Kate get the drop on Jack who proceeds to admit there is no global pandemic.  Instead, he boarded up the house to keep the three of them isolated because he, Jack, was infected with a lethal virus without his knowledge and then allowed to escape.  Jack was trying to contain the contagion.  They don't believe him...until Martin starts coughing up blood.  Kate puts him out of his misery with the shotgun; then, while she has a shotgun on Jack, the CB comes to life.  A military broadcast states there's a vaccine.  Oops.  She then blows Jack away out of spite and carts Martin's body down to the boat landing.  As she's about to climb into the boat, a military sharp shooter in a helicopter takes her out.  End of movie.

In my opinion, films need a nugget of optimism in them or else what's the point?  Might as well watch the news.  At the end of the original Night of the Living Dead, the hero is also shot and killed.  In that classic, though, the zombie menace was eradicated.  See?  A nugget.  I don't understand people who like spending an hour and a half of their life wallowing in doom and gloom.  I suppose an argument could be made that with the whole cast dead, the virus has been contained.  Right.  Until the next experiment goes wrong. 


Acting:  Bell's too hammy.  Newton's too bitchy.  And Murphy's too...well, he's pretty good, actually.
Story:  Fundamentally sound but poorly realized.
Direction:  About as exciting as C-SPAN. 
Production Values:  Nothing to complain about in this category.  The cottage set is impressive as is the cinematography.  Colors are proper British drab. 
Gore/FX:  Martin's blood spit up is about it.  We don't get to see the shotgun carnage.
Scares:  Not that kind of movie.
Ending:  As dumb as a bag of hammers.
Verdict:  Should you see Retreat?  Let me put it this the title of the film and think of it as advice. 

Rating:  2 out of 5

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