You know how it is, you are following a well worn path, you take a wrong turn, and the next thing you know is you are totally lost. That’s the basis for many a “lost in the wilderness”/“slasher in the woods”/“oops, where’s the cabin” type film. The thing is that those sort of films are usually set in the USA or, occasionally, the Australian Outback. They have the advantage of actually being a vast wilderness. The downside, as far as Mercy Falls is concerned, is we’re in Scotland. That’s the pretty bit at the top of the UK and it is nowhere near as big as the American forests. In fact you could fit Scotland into just the foresty bits of the USA over forty times.
Still, it is plenty big enough to get lost in and I definitely wouldn’t want to have to walk from one side to the other. So we’ll stop worrying over the fact that we aren’t dealing with vast uncharted expanses. Oh, in fact, that is the other wee niggle…part of the story involves going off to find a lost cabin in the woods. This cabin belonged to the father of one of the characters, Rhona (Lauren Lyle). However, following the Jacobite rising of 1745, a little organisation called the Ordnance Survey was set up to map, firstly, Scotland and ultimately the whole of the UK. The OS maps are renowned for their scale and detail. If you stand still for too long you might find yourself marked on the next update!
You’ll Take The High Road
Basically, that is the reason why I was less than convinced by the opening scene when a hitchhiker, Carla (Nicolette McKeown) is ignored and one of the car occupants says something about abandoning the hiker out in the middle of nowhere. It was even less convincing when the next shot showed Carla standing next to a sign saying “Crannar 2 miles” so we weren’t exactly out in the middle of nowhere. But, if I’m being honest, those are just minor quibbles. The actual main thrust of the story could take place almost anywhere and the conceit of being lost in the woods is just for atmosphere.
And it works very well! As I said earlier, Scotland has some staggeringly beautiful scenery and director Ryan Hendrick and cinematographer John Rhodes took full advantage of it. From the misty walks through thick woods to the drone shots that make it look like we’re in the totally off the grid and only have badgers for company. Admittedly, the whole thing could have been shot in a park in the middle of Glasgow but that is irrelevant; the atmosphere takes over and you might just as well be in the middle of Arizona or the Everglades or wherever these things are shot in the USA.
And I’ll Take The Low Road
A recent development in these films is making the bad guy a former soldier, usually some sort of special forces, suffering from some type of PTSD. Where Mercy Falls takes a different route is by making that soldier a young, attractive woman; in this case it is Carla the hitchhiker from earlier on. She manages to get invited to join Rhona, Heather (Layla Kirk), Scott (James Watterson), Donnie (Joe Rising), and Andy (Eoin Sweeney) on the search for the long lost cabin. Those names might not mean much now but I think they will become much better known: Lauren Lyle has been cast in the title role of a new detective series Karen Pirie.
So, beautifully shot, excellently acted, and a gripping story. Despite my niggles about the setting trying to be bigger than it is, the whole thing is, otherwise, well worth a look. I mean, there are plenty of mega-budget productions which require you to have an even bigger willing suspension of disbelief! Mercy Falls is released in cinemas on 1st September and gets a digital release on 6th November. If you get the opportunity, go and take a look.
Movie Grade: B+
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!