Sort of a youth-driven and very low-budget take on the "female empowerment" themes found in flicks like Death and the Maiden and Extremities, the indie thriller Wilderness Survival for Girls is a bit more insightful than many of its ilk. It's clearly an inexpensive production created by filmmakers with more ideas than money, and it's definitely being misrepresented as a full-bore "slasher flick," but WSFG is still a fairly compelling little project all the same.
Ruth (Jeanette Brox), Kate (Ali Humiston), and Deborah (Megan Henning) have decided to spend their graduation weekend up in a very isolated cabin deep in the woods. (Already you're pretty sure where this flick is headed.) After bickering a bit, talking about sex, and participating in a little topless sunbathing, the gals return to their cabin -- only to realize that a creepy stranger has noticed their presence. He's not exactly a "stalker," per se, but he does drop a few vaguely threatening comments before the girls are able to outwit the guy and strap him to a chair.
Thus begins a chatty-yet-intriguing mixture of psychological spookiness and young female interplay. (No, not that kind of "interplay." Well, maybe a little.) The intruder claims to be a harmless nobody, but it's well-known that a few teenagers were killed in this neck of the woods several years ago ... and so our three leads are justifiably suspicious of their new arrival. Those looking for "hardcore horror" will undoubtedly walk away from Wilderness Survival for Girls a bit disappointed, but the scrappy little indie boasts an impressive handful of surprising assets.
The three leads are a bit "rough around the edges," but each delivers a generally strong performance. Each of the girls are painted with fairly broad brush strokes (one's a partier, one's a brain, the last one's kind of a doormat) but the actresses bring some impressive weight and realism to the production. (Not physical weight!) As the untrustworthy loner, James Morrison also does a fine job of doling out the duplicity. At one point he's a sympathetic character; at another he's clearly a sleazeball who's done something wrong -- or has he?
Clocking in at a skimpy 78 minutes, Wilderness Survival for Girls is not the icky exploitationer you might expect from the DVD cover. Nor is it an entirely successful thriller, in that many of the themes and ideas offered here have been (well) covered in numerous other films. But credit is definitely due to writer/directors Kim Roberts and Eli Despres for trying to come up with something a little brainier than "three chicks get killed in a cabin."
Video: The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer is passable enough, although the movie exhibits a whole lot of grain throughout the whole of the film. Again, it's a very low-budget affair, so some technical shortcomings can be forgiven.
Audio: Your choice of DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 or DD 2.0. Audio is just fine, if nothing all that stunning.
Extras: Roberts and Despres contribute a full-length audio commentary that should prove interesting to fans of the film -- or anyone who'd also like to make an indie flick in less than three weeks. Also included is some screen test footage.
It's far from the most unique concept in the world, but what's offered in Wilderness Survival for Girls is a whole lot more interesting than yet another "three gals, a cabin and a stalker" flick.