Directed by Eli B. Despres [Other horror films: N/A] & Kim Roberts [Other horror films: N/A]
After years of wanting to see this, I really didn’t expect something this atypical. Not that Wilderness Survival for Girls is a bad movie or anything, but it’s not really the type of movie I was expecting, and I think that some people, if they go in with the wrong preconceptions, may walk away from this rather disappointed.
I didn’t expect the film to be anywhere near as low-budget as it was, for one thing. This doesn’t hurt the movie, because, as you all may know, I enjoy quite a few low-to-no budget films, but I was just somewhat taken aback by exactly how amateur this film came across.
What is more important, and definitely far more crucial, to my final verdict is the plot, and I’ll say that I was expecting something significantly different, but it’s also worth saying that this movie did have some feeling and heart which helped it break past what could have been a somewhat dull affair.
And to be clear, I guess I should briefly discuss my expectations – I thought this was a slasher. Why? I don’t know – I guess that, to me, it sounded like one. Some teens go to a cabin and get stalked and killed off by some mysterious figure? Typical slasher stuff, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong. Instead, we follow these three young women who go to this cabin and just hang out for forty minutes or so. They joke around, show off some skin, give the audience a clear view of their varying personalities, and show the small cracks in the friendship, and also sprinkle in a few small, implied character traits that pop up later. They also get high, because these three know how to have a good time.
There’s nothing horror about any of this so far, to be clear. I guess at one point, the three think they see some mysterious guy watching them, but at best, it’s mildly suspenseful, and doesn’t lead anywhere at that time. What it lacks in horror, though, this first half of the film makes up for in giving us three very fleshed out characters, and I love that. These aren’t your average women of horror – these three have a lot of character and personality, and I dig it.
It helps that the performances are great. We have Clea DuVall, Natasha Lyonne, and Velma. Okay, that’s my attempt at a joke, but Jeanette Brox reminded me throughout of Clea DuVall (circa How to Make a Monster) with her somewhat dorky, timid character. Megan Henning, with her glasses and attitude, got me thinking Velma. And the carefree, lower-class character played by Ali Humiston had Natasha Lyonne’s look and attitude from American Pie down beautifully. The three work great together, and the friendship felt authentic.
In many ways, a lot of this film feels more liking a coming-of-age drama with the three teens, unsure of their futures (two of them are going to college while one isn’t), unsure of their sexualities, unsure of love, just hanging out and candidly talking about things such as drugs, sex, masturbation, and their problems. It might be dull to some, but like I said, I think it gives a lot of character to consider, and it all plays in once the action starts ratcheting up.
Not that the movie is ever really inundated with action; once a mysterious man comes to the cabin and the girls, afraid and also high, tie him up believing him to not be cut of clean cloth, the movie certainly becomes more suspenseful, but there’s really only a few distinct moments of actual action. We got a lot of character from the girls, and now we examine this random guy who may or may not be a threat, and based on what the girls have to work with, it could definitely go either way.
If you’re going into this movie expecting some run-of-the-mill slasher plot, like I was, you will definitely be surprised. For some, the movie may not be their cup of tea. Once I got past my slight confusion, though, I was drawn into the characters and the dilemma they faced, and I felt for the characters when they talked about feeling unloved, or when they go for the person they love and are knocked down, or when they bite back and forth over personalities (Debbie telling Ruth’s character that Kate has called her stupid was a heart-breaking, yet very real, very real conversation).
Do I think that the movie is a masterpiece? No, not really. And like I said, I think it has the potential to turn some horror fans off. For me, though, Wilderness Survival for Girls was a pleasant surprise, and what it lacked in the slasher feel I was expecting, it more than made up for in fully-formed characters and great, real dialogue. This is definitely a movie that, while I didn’t love, I won’t be forgetting.