Desolation Movie Review
Written by Angry Scholar
Released by IFC Midnight
Directed by Sam Patton
Written by Matt Anderson and Michael Larson-Kangas
2017, 78 minutes, Not Rated
Movie released on December 15th, 2017
Toby Nichols as Sam
Jaimi Page as Abby
Alyshia Ochse as Jen
Claude Duhamel as the Hiker
Desolation is not a particularly apt title. It could mean a wasteland. It could also connote a feeling of utter emptiness and despair. Neither meaning is really on display in this movie. Instead it’s about camping and being a single mom and bonding with your son over violent deaths. So if you’re into any of those things, good news!
The film follows mom Abby, her son Sam, and Abby’s friend Jen on a camping trip into the woods. We eventually learn that the trip is a way for Abby and Sam to cope with the sudden death of husband/father Michael. The setup feels very after-school special-y, with Sam a sullen, mouthy brat, Abby an exasperated and still grieving widow, and Jen a cool adult who manages to get through to bratty Sam by being so adult and cool. (Also by having boobs.)
Sam, bratty bratface that he is, sees a weird survivalist sort of guy staring at them one day, but chooses not to say anything because he’s testing his limits and asserting his burgeoning adulthood or something equally stupid. Naturally this proves disastrous, as Survivor Guy (credited as “the hiker”) stalks the party and eventually drags Jen off while Abby and Sam somehow remain blissfully, stupidly asleep. Abby and Sam now have to bridge the distance that’s grown between them since Michael’s death and discover the true power of love and also pocket knives.
I wanted to give this film a fair shake, and to its credit, it’s not nearly as violent as it could have been. In fact, it’s barely violent at all. The one victim is killed off-screen, and though we see her remains, there’s nothing especially new or notable to anyone who’s seen any horror film ever. I consider this a positive thing, as I’m not a fan of gore. There’s also some fair-to-middlin’ acting, with the three main cast members being reasonably believable in their roles (though god I wanted Sam to die, the bratty brat brat).
Unfortunately none of that makes for a remotely memorable film. None of the characters are compelling or even especially sympathetic, and things feel very half-baked, especially a bit with the hiker’s sunglasses, which are never addressed during the film and suddenly, in a crucial moment, prove to be the key to stopping him. I’ve seen worse films than Desolation, but not being the worst at something is not the same as being good.