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THE RETREAT (2029)
Directed by Bruce Wemple
Written by Bruce Wemple
Starring Grant Schumacher, Dylan Grunn, Chris Cimperman, Rick Montgomery Jr., Peter Stray, Ariella Mastroianni, Catharine Daddario
From the director of LAKE ARTIFACT—a film I need to catch up with soon, comes THE RETREAT, a story of a pair of friends Gus (MONSTROUS’ Grant Schumacher) and Adam (Dylan Grunn), who go on a big hike before Adam gets married. The day before they head out, they stay at a bed and breakfast and hear tales of the wendigo, an ancient monster in the woods that preys on man’s greatest fears and drives him mad. Wouldn’t you know it, when the two take acid in the middle of the forest, Gus begins seeing a wendigo. The result is the destruction of a friendship, the sighting of horned monsters in the woods, and the shredding of a mind.
THE RETREAT is a solid indie with some strong characterization and eerie moments. While the concept of the wendigo has been explored in everything from PET SEMATERY to Larry Fessenden’s WENDIGO to THE RITUAL to WRETCH, THE RETREAT manages to give shape to this ambiguous monster in the woods by focusing on the madness it unleashes. Sure, you do get to see the monster, and I’ll get to that later, but the far more interesting stuff is the resentment Gus has with Adam getting married. While this isn’t a new concept either, one of losing a bro to a gal, it gives Gus extra motive for the horrifying things that occur later in the film. As Gus loses his mind, the story doubles back on itself and retells itself in a different way. This makes for a film you can’t really trust. Did Gus and Adam make it out of the woods alive or did something truly horrifying occur? No easy answers are given and I think those who like their horror buttoned up and tidy might take some exception to the open ended way this one wraps up.
I think the design of the Wendigo is nicely done. For the most part, it takes two forms, one of a large horned beast standing tall among the even taller trees and another of a pale bug-eyed humanoid monster that crawls on all fours. The former is quite imposing as it simply stands and stares at the viewer with glowing eyes—quite a creepy effect. But while the crawling monster is much more in your face and looks menacing in a still, moving it is quite clear that it is a bug-eyed mask and the rigid movements make it less effective the more we see of it.
THE RETREAT makes for a great descent into madness film as it really proposes a couple of likable characters and puts them in a situation where the shedding of sanity is meticulous and somewhat believable. Grant Schumacher, who took on another cryptid in MONSTROUS last year, really delivers a likable, albeit dopey lead. The double and triple backing of the story doesn’t help in making it easy to follow, but those who like a more trippy and cerebral approach to diving into that madness pit will want to seek this one out.