Updated: Oct 16, 2020
Directed by: #SandeepVarma
Wilderness Film Review
We’re all being encouraged to spend time outside these days. A walk in the woods is a far healthier way to break lockdown monotony than re-watching ‘The Office’ for the eighth time or unlocking yourself a gold-plated codpiece on whatever ‘Call of Duty’ they’re up to now. But it’s worth remembering that some eerie events can happen in the great outdoors – and the fear of what might be lurking behind the trees is what makes Wilderness so engaging.
We follow a young woman (Cecelia Zimmerman) jogging through a serene autumnal forest. Jolted from her focus by the echo of a voice, she decides to investigate its source. As it grows louder, it becomes clearer and clearer that it is someone in distress. Upon discovering that the screaming is that of an apparent hostage tied to a tree, the jogger tries desperately to assist them. But after removing the victim’s hood, she is stunned to find that it is her own face screaming back at her.
Wilderness does a wonderful job of placing us in the jogger’s shoes (pun intended). The initial alert she senses upon hearing the scream is framed brilliantly – the audience feels the same uncertainty over the distant sounds as the character does. As the tension ramps up and the shocking revelation of the victim’s identity is made clear, viewers will be left disorientated and confused just as someone who found their own doppelganger tied up in a forest surely would. The panic and distress brought on by the editing is incisive and mesmerising, and makes up for some poor acting in the most frantic scenes. Cecelia Zimmerman does a fine job (particularly in the final, haunting shot in which she expresses so much loss in only a glance), but her performance in pivotal moments do not convince.
The forest itself is the star. You can practically feel the crisp breeze that blows the barren trees, and every crinkle of the fallen leaves as the jogger engages on her rescue mission. Sound editing is often overlooked when we discuss perfect setting of a scene – it is impeccable in this film. The camerawork is equally exceptional, simultaneously placing the audience in the place of the individual whilst leaving one feeling like a helpless observer. Viewers will feel the urge to drag the jogger out of the screen to rescue her from the mysterious darkness that threatens her, and be left feeling helpless and powerless by the film’s ending.
Powerlessness is the key theme of the film – and it is remarkable how well it represents this theme in the short runtime. The jogger feels small and under threat from an unseen danger throughout, and her capture by this mystery is intolerably brutal. The reveal of exactly what is enslaving her is even more heart-breaking and bleak – a brave but memorable conclusion.
In just 6 short minutes, Wilderness has the potential to ruin your entire day – in the most brilliant and haunting way film can. Don’t let it put you off going for that jog – but if you happen to hear a scream whilst you’re out, maybe think twice before veering off of the path you’re on.