The Retreat is, after Lake Artifact and Monstrous, the third film I’ve reviewed from writer/director Bruce Wemple. I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising he’s followed up his take on North America’s best-known cryptid, Bigfoot with one on the continent’s homegrown demon, The Wendigo. And like with that film, the results here are anything but what I was expecting.
Gus (Grant Schumacher, Monstrous) and Adam (Dylan Grunn, Lake Artifact) have gone hiking in the Adirondack High Peaks a few days before Adam’s wedding. After a day of hiking, they camp and indulge in some hallucinogens. Waking up and stumbling into the woods tom pee he’s attacked by a strange creature. He fights it off and wakes up the next morning in the tent, alone and covered in blood.
It doesn’t take him long to find Adam’s body in the snow. Or to panic and find himself lost in the frigid woods. Now he has to find his way back to safety with both the elements and the Wendigo against him.
What makes The Retreat somewhat different from most films like this is the creature itself. The Wendigo isn’t just physically powerful like Sasquatch or a bear, it has supernatural abilities and can mess with its victim’s mind. And, like a cat, it likes to toy with them before it kills them.
Of course, it may not be a Wendigo at all. Gus might still be tripping his balls off from whatever they took. Is it drugs and a guilty conscience? The hallucinations of a dying man? One way or the other a lot of The Retreat takes place in Gus’s mind as he relives the events and tries to reconcile the varying versions of what happened.
And just as he isn’t sure what is real, neither do we. We don’t even know if it was just the two of them up there or if Ryan (Chris Cimperman, Lake Artifact) was there as well. I wasn’t even sure if he made it back at all by The Retreat was over.
In that regard, The Retreat is like the other “do drugs in the woods and see monsters” film I just reviewed, Archons. Both revolve around a very unreliable narrator and end on ambiguous notes. But while that film kept to a fairly linear narrative, this one bounces all over the place. From the woods to the office of a psychiatrist (Peter Stray, writer of Alien Party Crashers). Or from a confrontation with Adam’s fiance Amy (Ariella Mastroianni) back to the woods. It’s much more of a psychological film than a monster movie.
Which is not to say that we don’t see much of the Wendigo. There are several scenes with them and they’re very creepy looking at night and in shadows. Seen in bright light they look a little bit too much like Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie to be truly effective, I kept expecting it to start singing “Number of the Beast”. Of course, those who aren’t familiar with him may have a different reaction.
The Retreat is a very good movie. Though if you had a problem with the way Wemple used Bigfoot in Monstrous you may have the same problem here. There is a Wendigo in The Retreat, three of them actually. But it isn’t a movie about them.
The Retreat will be available on DVD and Digital on November 10th from Uncork’d Entertainment. You can chek their Facebook page for more details.