David Mackenzie’s inventive Scottish thriller keeps us on our toes with its intelligent blending of horror, comedy and internal drama. Charlie (Alastair Mackenzie) is driving to Skye on a quest for revenge against his ex-wife and her pop-star boyfriend when he offers to give a lift to the quirky Vincente (Jonny Phillips), who it turns out is running from thugs who want to do more than just kill him. But the road runs out and Charlie and Vince are stranded at a strange hotel on the edge of nowhere, populated by a freaky cult-like community seeking inner peace and healing. There’s also a ghost walking the hallways, and everyone seems just a bit too murderously nuts.
Yes, remote Scottish weirdness is the name of the game here, and it’s thoroughly good fun, even when it gets very scary indeed. There’s a grainy gray-back tone to the digital video imagery that makes it feel even more creepy, and Mackenzie uses clever direction to keep us on the brink. He also keeps the humor flowing–natural real life comedy combined with moments of inspired absurdity that frame the scary and serious moments. And yes, there are serious moments, as well as a real sense of catharsis and emotion at the end (which is a bit corny, but never mind).
The cast is excellent, performing Dogme-style with a raw authenticity that makes even the goofiest characters come to life. We’ve got the shady innkeeper (David Hayman), the gun-toting groundsman (Ewan Stewart), the paranoid blonde (Victoria Smurfit), the raging nympho (Louise Irwin), the sex-obsessed ex-priest (John Comerford), the agoraphobe (Ford Kiernan) and so on–definite types, but all have surprises in store. This is ingenious filmmaking with an especially strong script and a real attempt to make something interesting out of the rural thriller genre. Bodes well for Mackenzie’s second film, Young Adam, with Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton.