Desolation Wilderness marks the first feature from writer/directors Robby Massey and Derek Mungor (who also star in the film). Our story follows two guys who’ve had enough and stick it to The Man by quitting college. To clear their heads, they venture out to a cabin in some woods for good times away from the city. At first this is a taste of heaven, but all good things come to an end. Soon, the isolation and loneliness start to settle in and this dream getaway becomes something neither of the boys ever anticipated.
The idea of Desolation Wilderness is solid. There’s something attractive about taking good people, putting them in a new environment, and watching them slowly turn mad. But Desolation Wilderness ambitiously explores this idea while forgetting to add fun and entertainment. It’s eager to echo films like Evil Dead 2, The Shining, Secret Window, and every movie you’ve seen where isolation and silence drives a man insane, but the execution is hollow and lazy. Nothing happens in this movie. Almost the entire running time is two guys hanging out in the woods, wandering around, shooting fireworks, and occasionally playing their musical instruments. This film carries no excitement, no terror, and no engagement – it’s exhausting to watch.
I don’t care how slow a movie is, wow me with something. (2001: A Space Odyssey pulled this off and made it possible for anyone). Whether it be a scene of strong dialogue or a puppy parachuting from the sky in a 1920s mobster outfit, give me something to remember. Anyone who tries to make a movie set in a cabin without the use of terror or violence or comedic chaos is making themselves an easy target for ridicule.
If the story is a character study, then I must have completely missed that part. If it’s supposed to be a slow-burn into madness, it would have benefited the film (a little) if something unsettling occurred, paralyzing the long periods of nothing. The third act of Desolation Wilderness does attempt to thrill us, but gets smothered in fast cuts and artsy jump scares.
When the story starts to shift, the filmmakers use light digital effects to engage the audience. This works against them – these effects are too artsy for a story they’re trying to make. They may give us some VHS nostalgia by introducing the film in poor VHS-quality, but this hurts the film greatly. A wiser choice would have been to shoot the entire thing on VHS versus shooting it digitally and throwing in effects to make it look cheap. I respect them for still having a love for the VHS revolution (never forget!), but using this method is rather obnoxious and lazy.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.