11th Jan2021

‘The Retreat’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Grant Schumacher, Dylan Grunn, Chris Cimperman, Rick Montgomery Jr., Peter Stray, Ariella Mastroianni, Catherine Daddario | Written and Directed by Bruce Wemple

When you watch some many low budget independent horror movies you get used to having low expectations. Unfortunately, as much as I wish it wasn’t the case, I watch a lot of very average and sometimes very poor independent movies. But there’s always hope that the one you watch will buck the trend and actually be good. Well The Retreat might just be that one.

Horror films where friends go to a cabin in the woods and are attacked by ‘something’ doesn’t exactly sound original. Despite this, The Retreat does a good job of not feeling like a thousand other similar movies. A couple of friends hire a small place to go on a backpacking trip together but things soon go awry when one of them is attacked by a monster in the woods. Even that brief description only goes through the opening twenty minutes or so and just scratches the surface of what happens in the movie.

After those first twenty minutes you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Retreat has shown too much in the way of the monster. We watch so many horror movies where the ‘monster’ is not shown for most of the movie, we get little glimpses here and there and then a big reveal possibly at the end. But after about twenty minutes here it seems like we’ve seen it all and there’s no way back. But the filmmakers managed to reign it in and this first showing doesn’t mean we see the monster throughout the movie. We do see it again but it feels like the right amount and it’s not overused. The monster itself has an interesting look. Some what original, scary-looking and the effects used are really good. And even though this opening would suggest otherwise, The Retreat becomes more of a slow-burn psychological horror. Not quite reaching the heights of The Lodge or Hereditary but it has the same kind of tone for much of the film.

It hits lots of similar notes to those aforementioned films and one of the key highlights is the score. Wide-ranging in style and sound but always excellent. It is fast paced and frantic at the most tense and scary scenes but also becomes harsh sounding and loud when creating that ominous tone known in slow burn genre movies.

The performances are fantastic too. It’s a small cast but every one shows lots of confidence and are absolutely believable in their roles. Grant Schumacher might not be the most experienced of actors but he is excellent in the lead role and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t go on to bigger things. He plays things subtle when needed but also super intense too, his range is very good and I was impressed.

I didn’t realise until after watching The Retreat that director Bruce Wemple also directed Bigfoot movie Monstrous that I very much enjoyed, so it’s perhaps no surprise that I enjoyed this too. There is definitely a similar tone and style in the two movies and one which I really like so I will be checking out Wemple’s other movies both new and old.

The Retreat is a well-made, surprisingly great slow burn horror movie and fans of Ari Aster will no doubt enjoy it. It looks beautiful at times – the snow-covered forest and landscape are a great choice of location and there’s enough twists and scares to keep long term horror fans happy.

**** 4/5

The Retreat is out now from Uncork’d Entertainment

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