[Review] THE RETREAT (Popcorn Frights Wicked Weekend): Trippy Psychological Horror and Creature Feature Mash-Up Impresses

In his previous film Monstrous, writer/director Bruce Wemple combined a Bigfoot creature feature with other horror elements. In his new feature The Retreat, he tackles another North American legend in the Native American Wendigo, again adding other fear-fare ingredients to the mix. The result is a trippy film with an unreliable, not very likable main character that goes into intriguing psychological horror realms.

Gus (Grant Schumacher of Monstrous) and Adam (Dylan Grunn of Wemple’s Lake Artifact) check into a guest lodge in the Adirondack Mountains as a bachelor party for Adam. Each room in the place, which is owned by host Marty (Rick Montgomery Jr. of Lake Artifact), has eerie artwork featuring the Wendigo hanging on the walls. 

Gus accepted some hallucinogenic tea from fellow guest Ryan (Chris Cimperman of Lake Artifact), of which he and Adam partake after their first day of hiking. After that, Gus has an encounter with the Wendigo, and the next morning he finds Adam’s body in the snow. 

Before and after that incident, The Retreat time-hops back and forth between the past and present, including Gus talking with a psychiatrist and being confronted by Adam’s fiancee, as well as having a heart-to-heart discussion with Marty about why the latter is now without his wife — and hallucinations and apparitions all figure into the proceedings, too.

Schumacher and Grunn have good chemistry together, and the uneasy friendship between them feels convincing. Schumacher has a tough role but plays it well, portraying a manipulative, selfish young man who is worried about losing his best friend to a marriage and potentially an out-of-state job. Grunn is solid as the better-off of the two buddies and who is tiring of his friend’s negative behavior.

Regarding the Wendigo and the horror elements, there are plenty of both. The practical effects creature design is sufficiently creepy, and the ghoulish beast is shown in some bloody attacks. 

Wemple’s choice of a nonlinear approach and incorporating dream and hallucination sequences make for an intriguing, if at times confusing, watch, but his commitment to the style pays off well. Viewers looking for a headier approach than usual to a creature feature should find plenty to chew on in The Retreat

The Retreat screened as part of Popcorn Frights Wicked Weekend, which ran from October 29–November 1. The film will be available on DVD and Digital on November 10th from Uncork’d Entertainment. 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.