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DESOLATION (2017)

Directed by Sam Patton
Written by Matt Anderson, Michael Larson-Kangas
Starring Toby Nichols, Jaimi Paige, Alyshia Ochse, Claude Duhamel
Find out more about this film here

This is one of two films with the title DESOLATION I will be covering this month. And the other one is has a lot to live up to as Sam Patton’s DESOLATION is one simple, yet potent woodland survival film.


Recovering from the loss of her husband, Abby (Jaimi Paige) goes on a camping trip with her son Sam (Toby Nichols) and best friend Jen (Alyshia Ochse). But once deep into the woods, Sam notices a man following them (played by Claude Duhamel) and while he increasingly seems to be trailing them closer, he doesn’t explain his intentions and disappears when Abby and Jen approach him. As bad weather rolls in, the trio battle the environment around them as well as this intruder who attacks with seemingly no purpose other than to kill them.

What I love about this film is the simplicity of its story. DESOLATION is a typical (wo)man vs. nature/(wo)man vs. man setup. The twofold threat of the environment they are lost in and the man pursuing them is relentless and cold. The man says nothing and there is no explanation or heavy discourse as to what his motivation is. The man is simply a threat in the distance that is getting increasingly closer. With Abby’s husband succumbing to cancer and things getting pretty bad towards the end, as hinted at in conversations between Abby and Jen, the man begins to represent that cancer, slowly creeping up on them and increasing in threat as he gets closer. It’s easy to assign a metaphorical heft to this film because of the simplicity of the conflict, but that makes it all the more potent when things start to get physical.


Adding to the excellence of this film are the performances across the board with the cast. For a child actor, Toby Nichols is surprisingly mature as a kid who is trying to assume the role of man of the house after his father passes. But the real treat is seeing two relatively unknown actresses become stars I plan on following from here on out. Jaimi Page is fantastic as the overburdened mother trying desperately to keep strong for her son, but showing a softer side when confiding in her best friend Jen. And Alyshia Ochse is full of personality as the free-wheeling friend who tries to keep levity going in a tough situation. Both actresses have an undeniable chemistry and that’s what makes the film pack such a punch when things go sideways.

There’s a surprising amount of effective and practical gore in DESOLATION. While the body count is low, the violence is high and harsh at times. Director Patton captures both the beauty and terror of the rugged forested environment, making this a film that is full of surprises and danger. While I found the ending to be somewhat abrupt, DESOLATION still is one concise and chilling little film that oozes tension and terror from beginning to end.




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