Stars: Mischa Barton, Jackson Davis, Winter Ave Zoli, Trent Ford, Dana Rosendorff, Michael Milford, Kelly Brannigan, Tyler Sellers, Jake Busey, Sebastian Bach, Gerry Bednob, Lance Henriksen | Written and Directed by Ashley Avis
When twenty-four-year old Jae (Barton) is released from prison for killing her mother, she returns home to small-town Ridgecrest, California. It’s the last place she wants to be, with the judgement of the town, old friends, and old ghosts. She decides to join her brother Robin (Davis) and his girlfriend Rosemary (Zoli) on a road trip to “Burn the Moon”, a music festival in Death Valley. Linking up with a trio of idiosyncratic characters along the way, the group ends up getting impossibly lost amongst the three-million acres of salt flats, sand dunes, vistas and winding dirt roads. To survive they will have to overcome both the dangerous terrain and each other.
Billed a survival thriller in some quarters, Deserted is tough going for the most part. The cast of characters are unlikeable, often frustrating and certainly conceited.And they spend the half of the film acting like idiots, arguing, talking crap and smoking weed in scenes that do nothing to further the plot or engineer any empathy from the audience. When the film does transition into a desert survival movie a la 127 Hours (but without the self-harm or bodily mutliation) people do die. However, this particular group of characters are so annoying and so dislikeable you wish the harsh desert would take them sooner and are glad when it [eventually] does!
Tapping into the “troubled youth” persona that made her such as star on The O.C., Barton – whether its her character, or the actress herself – seems to have shed any attitude she had, losing that “I’m better than you” persona that plagued a few of her previous roles and delivers one of her best performances in years. She certainly shows why she’s had the successful acting career against the stilted, somewhat amateur, performances of the rest of the cast.
Ultimately Deserted is one heavy-handed metaphor for forgiveness and inner strength: Barton’s character gets over her past by literally fighting her way through the unforgiving desert as one would normally fight your personal demons. It’s a tale we’ve seen many times before and will undoubtedly see many times again. As for this particular story, unless you’re a hardcore Mischa Barton fan I think you can skip it.
Deserted is available on Cable and Digital HD on February 28th.