Talking about genre isn’t usually something I have an issue with, particularly when it comes to the typical tropes of the horror genre. Generally characters fall prey to their own psychological flaws if they’re not being cut down by slasher villains or monsters. But this particular release had me scratching my head more than a little. Is it a morality tale, or a ghost story? With the advertising material plastered with things like Deliverance meets Cannibal Holocaust meets Predator… I can tell you it’s nothing of the sort. The writers don’t seem sure what kind of story they were trying to tell, if any, and while there are several key plot points here and there it’s mostly just kind of empty. Considering how simple it is to film a chase movie in the woods it’s kind of mystifying to be honest, but I’ll do my best to explain.
The opening sets up exactly what you’d expect from the location as a bunch of hunters camping out in Alaska have their heads squashed when a shadowy figure goes caveman on them. But the random events that follow are not exactly standard elements. In some cases that would be a sign of creative ideas in play, but here it’s generally just a random and disconnected. Marcus (Jared Cohn) is a booze swilling low life who is introduced trying to steal from his mother and having a domestic argument with her that kind of leads nowhere. There’s a one time hint that this is set in the 1980s as we overhear her TV set playing things like the old “this is your brain on drugs” rhetoric but it also has no bearing on the story. Maybe she was just wrapping up an all night Nightmare on Elm Street session and couldn’t stay awake through part six.
Meanwhile back at home he meets up with girlfriend Stella (Victoria Curtain) and they talk to a strange friend of the family who claims he owes them a debt, and passes them an amusingly crude treasure map written on a Bible page before exiting the picture without further explanation. Yes this is a get rich or die trying sort of storyline, however what they’re looking for is some kind of secret marijuana stash, growing wild in the middle of nowhere. Who is tending it and why? Is this really the core of the narrative? Apparently so, and we’re led to believe it’s worth 25 thousand dollars and is a strain that can only grow in the wild. So with Stella’s stowaway sister Lydia (Ardis Barrow) in tow, they head off to get what’s coming to them.
This is hardly an inspiring start, but they have to go and get lost in the woods for some reason I guess. Perhaps someone thought the road trip gone wrong needed an extra dimension and threw this warning about greed in, but like everything else it feels thin. The same can be said of a native American tribal subplot thrown in later which doesn’t really fit the story. In fact the whole movie feels like an afterthought. They find traps set in the woods and are attacked by wolves (at least I think so, this isn’t edited well) during which time Stella ditches them to hitch a ride before vanishing from the car that picker her up. Marcus and Lydia now have to find her along with their dream crop of Mary Jane, and after meeting a drunk local in a motel they are advised on the location of a tribal sect in the woods that might be responsible for strange goings on nearby.
These little dialogue scenes are placed here and there, but most of the time it consists of them walking around, splitting up, finding trouble and then walking some more. Sometimes they run. In others they go by boat. In some scenes they just sit around, but in any case it goes on forever. Who is this crazed killer and what is he displaying his victims for? Beats me. More questions are raised when it seems that the woods are haunted. Weird apparitions sometimes harass the wanderers but always vanish before doing any permanent damage. Again it’s like a tangent from another story that is never explained. If only one of these ideas felt like a main through line but it has little structure.
The characters are non entities, while Marcus constantly yells about “God damn Indians” and his “God damn weed” in between drinking and smoking, there’s no sense of what he actually wants this all for beyond basic selfishness. Lydia has a few confusing offhand comments about “going to Europe to see the Pyramids” which are just as weak in terms of development. It’s a shame didn’t add more of these moments as it’s kind of amusing. In terms of horror action and death however, it’s also surprisingly light but no less eye brow raising. Despite being impaled and drowned during the expedition Marcus never seems that injured and just sort of bleeds from the mouth every so often before going back to his one note money rant. A sinister local girl living alone in a shack and a couple of hunters are also introduced later but the characters are all just as pointless and feel tacked on like everything here, it’s a patchwork of hare-brained ideas swimming in a void of barely formed drudgery.
Why not make it about tense scenes if you can’t come up with a strong narrative? Being hunted by wild animals or stalked by a murderer seems like a simple story to tell with lots of possibilities for set pieces. It also has all kinds of drama to be constructed without much of a budget and limited scenery options. But nothing feels finished here. It’s too dull and too much of a mess. A lot of questions about the supernatural and the nature of scary rituals are raised, but the biggest one to go unanswered is why watch this at all. I’m afraid that’s the one I cannot begin to consider.