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 / 5)