Low budget horror films (not that I mind them) will continue to be churned out due to the relatively low financial risk. Desolation might fall under the micro-budget of filmmaking as every scene takes places in the woods. No cheeky travel scenes, no setup story at home… just cut right to the chase with some campers. I suppose that helps the audience jump right into the isolated feeling. I actually think this film should have been called Isolation instead as the title they do have makes me think of wasteland and deserts, certainly not lush forests in the height of summer.
Abby and her teenage son Sam embark on a trip through the wilderness to spread the ashes of Michael their recently husband/father. Along with them is Abby’s best friend Jen to serve and shoulder to lean on and help them get through this tough time. The acting and development of these three characters are that absolute stars of the film. It’s a rare thing in this type of movie that it feels like everyone has such a natural connection. The women laugh and reminisce and talk about love, parenting, and grief in such a normal way that it doesn’t feel like a horror film. I actually feel the horror aspects are the weakest part and could have almost been omitted.
Early on Sam sees someone across the lake and waves. Our stoic villain looks like a hippie that had to, for some reason, go undercover at a metal concert. I don’t know much else how to describe him, he had zero character and nothing interesting about him. He was like the opposite of the It Follows monster. Every time you looked at him he would stop like you were playing red light/green light as children. Even as the film ramps up he doesn’t become any more intriguing.
You would think such a short film running at 78 min that the script would be tight and not much in the way of inconsistencies. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. One teleporting body from a kill site to a new one after a day of hiking and miles away had me shaking my head. I also probably picked up more since I live near and hike where this is filmed in the Adirondacks. With the most isolated spot being just a few miles from any road, hiking days to nowhere and not finding help didn’t feel right. This is beside the fact that during the summer every trail is inundated with people. I try to hike lesser-known paths and you are never alone. I realize this anecdote won’t apply to most watching the film, however.
Desolation Final Thoughts 2.5/5
The main problem with Desolation is the film’s identity. It starts as a drama, filled with trying to overcome grief, and has wonderful performances by the cast. For those expecting a horror film, the first half will drag on for what feels like an eternity as nothing exciting happens. Then when the script flips it turns into a predictable horror film, albeit one with no tension as you can call play by play to what is going to happen. I really wanted to enjoy this film and was expecting a nice horror. Instead, I got a nice drama with some unneeded horror parts at the end.
For those interested in the film be sure to see if it is playing at your local indie theater or you can also rent it on Amazon.