R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Michael J Bassett
scr Dario Poloni
with Sean Pertwee, Alex Reid, Toby Kebbell, Stephen Wight, Luke Neal, Ben McKay, Lenora Crichlow, Karly Greene, Adam Deacon, Richie Campell, John Travers, Stephen Don
release UK 11.Aug.06
06/UK 1h33

Burning ring of fire: Wight (above); Pertwee and the boys (below)

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Wilderness Director Bassett (Deathwatch) struggles to wring any actual terror from this grisly suspense film, opting instead for blood and guts. But without any characters we can care about, why bother?

After a brutal case of bullying and suicide in a youth prison, the head warder (Pertwee) takes the boys to an island for a bit of outdoor bonding and character building. But of course it all goes horribly wrong as they encounter a group of teen girls on a similar outing, and then something murderous emerges from the woods to kill them one by one. And since these are hardened teen criminals, they then turn on each other.

All the usual characters are here: there's the new guy with the mysterious past (Kebbell), the ruthless bully (Wight), the thug (Neal), the mouthy yob (Deacon), the musclehead (Campell), the slag (Greene) and the sensitive boys (McKay and Travers). With only a couple of exceptions, these are all alpha-males, taking charge and brutalising whomever they meet. They're so despicable that it doesn't really matter who dies next, or how. And as it progresses, it actually gets rather nasty and distasteful.

The cast is extremely uneven, hampered by the one-note characters, terrible dialog and indifferent direction. There's no sense of horror around them, no creepy fear of what lurks out there in the darkness. So as a result we don't believe them for a minute. Reid's female warder seems to be the only person with a brain; Neal and Kebbell are the only ones who manage to create interesting characters.

The plot is almost pathologically simplistic, complete with the mysterious disappearance of everyone's phones and the right-on-cue discovery of a boat or two. Every plot turn is predictable and obvious, from the abandoned house to the revelation of what's really happening. Nothing is nearly as scary or surprising as the filmmakers seem to think it is. The only people who will enjoy this are diehard fans of explicit gore. Even that is presented without any wit or morbid humour. And playing this kind of thing dead straight is, frankly, a disaster.

cert 18 themes, strong violence, language, sexuality 3.Jul.06

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall