Shot in Northern Ireland, Wilderness (2006) is a gritty and gory thriller, centered on the adventures of a group of inmates from a boy's juvenile prison, who face unexpected danger, while serving disciplinary punishment on a remote island. Although the synopsis on the DVD makes it sounds like all male struggle for survival, that is not the case.
When an bullied inmate at Moorgate Young Offenders Institute commits suicide by cutting his wrists, the members of the dead boy's dorm are sent to a remote (and quite large) island for some disciplinary action. The group of six lads under the supervision of prison official Jed Wyler (Sean Pertwee), soon discover that they are not alone on the island. Mandy (Lenora Crichlow) and Jo (Karly Greene), two inmates from a girl's detention facility are there with Louise (Alex Reid) their supervisor.
The two groups come together, after a tramp living on the island is found dead with his throat ripped open. Callum (Toby Kebbell) a newcomer, is suspected of the crime. One of the boys disappears as a prelude to the group being viciously attacked, by a hail of deadly arrows, and a pack of wild dogs. The assault leaves the shaken group without any supervision, and they struggle to establish some kind of order, and find a way to survive against a ruthless and well-prepared opponent.
The story that could have taken the all male Lord of the Flies route, instead is another routine teenagers in distress in the woods tale. Instead of being violent hardcases, the boys are mostly passive, except for Steve (Stephen Wight) who exhibits resentment for authority. Steve's buddy Lewis (Luke Neal) is the most physically imposing, but is pretty passive after hooking up with Jo. Lindsay (Ben McKay), is the weak sniveling type.
The lads soon figure out why they are being attacked, but aside from a knife, they have no weapons, and lack the unity and skills which to fight back. The mysterious killer (Stephen Don) remains hidden, using his pack of dogs to terrorize the befuddled teens, who fall victim to various traps he has setup. With possession of the knife, Callum has a leadership role, searching for a way off the island. Eventually the pressure finally brings Steve's dark side out, but he can't match the killer's deadly skills.
Featuring some tense well executed action sequences and some cruel kills, director Michael J. Bassett delivers some gruesome cringeworthy moments and shocking visuals. Introducing the females, keeps the film from quite living up to its potential, but Wilderness is still a taught entertaining thriller, with a British flavor. Strongly recommended.