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Jenn (Missy Peregrym) and her boyfriend Alex (Jeff Roop) have decided to go camping against her better judgement. The trip begins fine enough as they take in the beauty of the great outdoors, but it soon becomes clear that beauty comes with a sharp bite too. They lose their way, they’re trailed by a strange Irishman and they may just be breathing the same air as a hungry black bear.
Writer/director Adam MacDonald’s feature debut begins on familiar terrain. A couple lost in the woods, a creepy loner, frightening sounds echoing between the trees at night — but somewhere around the mid-point the wide open spaces they’re traversing close in around them to become an oppressive and claustrophobic nightmare. What was beautiful becomes harrowing, what was inviting becomes threatening and then the film delivers a sequence that may just feature the most terrifyingly-crafted animal interaction since I don’t know what. Fear and anxiety morph into pure horror — and I’m not just saying that as someone who recently hiked in Alaska and saw a Kodiak bear in the wild — this is a breath-holding, fist-clenching, pants-soiling nightmare fuel.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes, gallery]
Milton (Milo Cawthorne) is a bit too smart for his britches, and after getting busted for inappropriate use of chemicals he’s sent to a rehab facility where he meets Skyler (Olivia Tennet) who has a problem of her own. She needs a cook for a big meth score, and Milton is her man. The pair are picked up by her psychotic boyfriend, and the three head to a remote cabin to get busy getting rich. Soon double crosses, romance, murder and something very, very weird happens. And then it happens again.
This is an incredibly entertaining little blood-splattered romance with a sci-fi twist that is best entered with as little advance knowledge as possible — to that end be sure to ignore the back of the DVD which gives away way too much information. Hell, ignore the front cover too. Things start deceptively slow, but stick with it as the smart humor and story turns become more and more engaging and enjoyable.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, test footage]
Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) is an Air Force pilot who served multiple tours overseas only to be reassigned to a base in Nevada where he pilots drones from a high-tech shed. He wants to return to the sky, but he’s stuck staring at screens through a series of missions with an escalating acceptance of civilian casualties. The stress begins to take a toll on his marriage and his sense of well being.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol takes an engaging and incredibly cynical look at modern warfare to reveal the casualties beyond the targeted enemy. Hawke does great work here as a man whose heyday is well behind him as he struggles to come to grips with what his life and job have become. Zoe Kravitz and Bruce Greenwood give strong supporting turns as well, and it’s a movie that would make for a thoughtful double feature with Camp X-Ray. It’s a dark film — a brightly lit dark film — that should have you thinking deeply the next time you hear about a drone strike on the news. Which is every day.
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