The film introduces us to Renee (Tommie-Amber Pirie) and Valerie (Sarah Allen), who are currently in a relationship. The two plan to exit the city and travel to a cabin in the woods for a pre-wedding event where Renee will finally meet Valerie’s friends. This will take their relationship to the next level, making it feel more official.
But as they drive towards their destination, they encounter a few strange issues, including meeting a creepy stranger at a gas station. They even get a flat tyre, slowing them down even further. Upon finally arriving at the cabin, there seems to be no sight of any of the other guests who are supposed to be there. Renee and Valerie find various belongings and clues that suggest their friends have clearly been here but gone out, so they wait for their return. While waiting, they go for a walk alone in the bush, only to find that they are being hunted by a group of skilled hunters who all desire to tear them apart (literally!). Can Renee and Valerie work together and survive The Retreat?
The Retreat is best described as a horror film filled with brutal and violent moments. As the film begins, we learn more about the two leads, including their doubts, such as wondering if their current relationship will generally lead somewhere positive in the future. I can’t deny that the first act felt a little cliché. Watching our leads deal with a flat tyre, stopping for gas and some attempted jump scares are all familiar to horror films. Thankfully as the first act passes, things are more enlightening, and we see the story go up a notch as the concept of a real hunt begins.
Visually, I’m half and half on this one. Some moments are visually pleasing to watch, which again feels familiar to other horror films like it, and the setting and surroundings of the cabin are also pleasing. However, for whatever reason, at times, I found the picture insanely dark. I even found myself adjusting my visuals to try and obtain a better picture (which didn’t end up making things any better). This negative picture quality doesn’t just relate to shots which have been done at night either. The musical score was fitting and successfully heightened suspense moments where you know we’re about to see something disturbing or unsettling. Attempted jump scares never seem impactful as they are more obvious instead of unexpected.
As a plot, apart from what feels like a familiar first act, I found myself enjoying the story and was surprised by the various twists and turns. I wasn’t expecting to experience these twists, and it was a nice treat. Performances and dialogue are fine, but these two aspects are strongest during suspenseful and haunting/horrifying moments. The dialogue surrounding the relationship between Renee and Valerie (again around the first act) feels more cheesy and perhaps even slightly forced.
Overall, there are many fun horror aspects to enjoy here, especially if you’re seeking something violent and horrifying. As a plot, some moments feel familiar and slightly cliché, such as moments of dialogue. But once the first act passes, there’s a fun film to watch with various unexpected moments. The surroundings are a nice touch, and the audio tracks are rewarding and fitting. Visually, it is a major disappointment that there are many scenes so dark it’s almost darn near impossible to see what’s going on. Adjusting your display at home won’t help this issue any further. In the end, I feel insanely half and half on this one. It’s a solid step in the right direction with fun moments, but it also misses some opportunities that could have made this more of an outstanding feature. The Retreat (2021) is Available in the UK and ANZ digital platforms from June 20th & June 22nd.