Solid stranger in the woods mystery chase thriller within the picturesque foliage of damp, misty Scotland is a skilful ambitious tale of treachery and vicious survival.
Trouble brews practically from the beginning for a bunch of mates deciding to go highlands bushwalking in search of a long lost cabin, a childhood memory for one of the group Rhona (Lauren Lyle).
Passed on by her late Father, Rhona is unsure exactly of the isolated lodge location on the map, although that doesn’t stop the group shuffling off into the scenic, somewhat treacherous terrain.
Confident, local stranger, Carla (Nicolette McKeown) mingling with them the night before at the pub, offers to direct the inexperienced freestylers on the right track.
Along the way there’s a skinny dipping moment which seemed out of place in the cold conditions, the reasoning open for interpretation.
Relationship dilemmas within the group and harsh conditions, including getting lost, push limits of sanity and after a sudden fatality, doom spreads quick as one by one lives are in danger.
Carla is revealed as an escaped psychiatric patient with hidden military background enabling her with a certain set of skills. An animalistic renegade enjoying thrills of the human hunt, Carla lurks incognito following the scared friends with intent to kill.
Entertaining brutality throughout, there’s implicit high tension and although the plot is definitely not groundbreaking, from cliffhanging to balancing across a stump above a ravine, anticipating what’s happening next is part of the fun.
Lyle and in particular McKeown are quietly achieving physical leads with enormous character effectiveness, whilst their co-stars including James Watterson as Scott and prominent Layla Kirk, as Heather are emotional convincing during the assault.
Minimalistic special effects work in favour of proceedings, natural locations in hiking situations are mostly relatable.
The keen camera-lens eye of cinematographer John Rhodes and appropriated score from composer Stephen Wright also enhance the dread of Mercy Falls, a refined horror indie with a memorable final girl, who it turns out enjoys a good BBQ.
Horror | UK, 2023 | 15 | Cinema | 1st September 2023 (UK) | Bingo Films | Dir. Ryan Hendrick | Lauren Lyle, Nicolette McKeown, James Watterson, Layla Kirk, Eoin Sweeney
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