Written, directed and edited by Matias Breuer and Liam Hall, a group of childhood friends celebrate their college graduation by going to a cabin in the woods. As hope for the future gives way to fear of the unknown, they start to suspect that something sinister may be stalking them. Starring: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Austin Larkin, Claire Lord, Fergie L. Philippe, Tess Tregellas and W. Scott Parker III.
When you combine childhood friends, a remote location, a cabin, a strange neighbour and a strong awareness of the supernatural, it’s inevitable that they’re headed for a hairy situation. It’s a classic recipe that’s been used in all manner of ways but one way or another it’s always out to unsettle you, so you know to be wary of what’s to come. Francis (Bloom) tries to have a girls weekend away with Lauren (Tregellas) and Barb (Lord) at her family’s cabin but their plans get crashed by her brother Hal (Larkin) and his best friend Terry (Philippe). They decide to make the best of the weekend anyway, plenty of drinks and a few games then they’re briefly interrupted by their neighbour James (Parker) introducing himself, he speaks in an odd tone, he pauses too long between answers and his generous offer of being there if they need anything, feels dubious but they carry on with the evening. It’s only when strange stick dolls start turning up in their rooms and a night of camping goes awry, that they start to worry their might be something perilous at play.
Surprisingly the film doesn’t embrace the horror aspects of its story, it sticks mostly to drama with a thriller edge, for the most part it explores their friendships and only dips its toes into the darker side of things. It does have some interesting turns to offer with their tumultuous past and typically uncertain futures for college graduates but the focus being primarily on those elements causes issues when it shifts to something more ominous, with the impact being severely lessened. As the story progresses, you can see the attempt to build tension and suspense but that more dramatic and light-hearted side has sadly made it unable to really get through. Another reason for that issue is the timing of the plot, it takes a long time to get going for a film that’s less than 90-mintues and then when it finally does, it reveals itself much too quickly and doesn’t allow the audience that vital time to build the fear of what’s to come. It’s a hard thing to describe without spoilers but it’s simply not enough time between the peak of its build and the revelation that explains it away entirely. There are also issues with the plot being slightly transparent at times, which further adds to that struggle.
Despite those issues, the film has a decent style to it with its direction and cinematography, it starts out with some very nice aerial shots and wide shots of the lake then moves into much more claustrophobic territory as things get more intimate. It’s a shame they didn’t go flat out into that close up style as the film progresses, to have something akin to Patrick Kack-Brice’s Creep and really embrace the fear of their characters, it approaches the idea but doesn’t fully go for it. Early on it also has a classic tracking shot, slow and purposeful, feeling as though it’s pushing that the cast are on a journey that they’re not quite aware of yet. It has a great atmospheric setting but as it moves along, the style becomes more one note and loses its grasp on that more effective style.
The acting is solid, with the exception of brief moments where the actors struggle to express more fearful emotions, the dramatic side of things is done well, they get a little cheesy at times but that’s the hazard of stories about childhood friends. There are some nice emotional discoveries between both Lauren and Barb, and Hal and Terry, the latter being a very relatable story of getting older and realising that you’re at different points in your life and different levels of maturity, which tests your friendship. There’s no weak link, each cast member does their part and for the majority they feel very natural in their roles, and their relationships feel genuine.
Here On Out fits in nicely with other films of woodland cabins and suspicious happenings, it follows the recipe and does what it set out to do but you can’t help to think that the really memorable films that tackle these types of stories are the ones that think way outside the box, and that’s not something that happens here. There’s too much time focusing on the dramatic side of things to allow for that thriller edge to be harder hitting, darker or satisfying because it’s fighting against the tone set by its tomes of friendship. It isn’t helped by an ending that feels anti-climactic, it reflects that largely dramatic tone but there was a great opportunity to end it with a bang slightly earlier, rather than playing out the last of the drama to resolve their story. It’s entertaining and worth watching but it’s a shame that it didn’t live up to its full potential.