Walk this way
“It’s all about survival.”
Director/Writer: Rupert Bryan / Writer: Ben Loyd-Holmes / Cast: Zara Phythian, Ben Loyd-Holmes, Barbara Nedeljakova, Lisa-Marie Long, Daniel Caren, Jemma Bolt, Stephanie Siadatan, Dominic Lemoignan, Shauna MacDonald, Tamar Hassan.
Body Count: 17
I went to school with cast member Lisa-Marie Long. We had Mrs Perry’s art class together. What’s strange is that she looks almost exactly the same as she did nearly 20 years ago. Freakdom. This made watching her tortured and murdered very bizarre and disturbing.
Anyway, enough of my star connections, The Hike is the offspring of Wilderness, Wolf Creek and most clearly, inspired by The Descent. The bad news is that it’s not as good as any of those.
Army-girl Kate reunites with four gal-pals for a three day sojourn into the woods, somewhere in Britain. They walk, they gossip, they flirt with a trio of rock-climbing guys who (literally) fall in their path. We, however, know something bad is going to happen, because the pre-credits sequence showed us a girl running frantically through the forest, shrieking for help. Those she is with scramble at her command but are quickly subdued by an off-camera something… or somebody.
What makes this type of movie difficult to review as a whole is the ‘big twist’ that’s revealed about half way through. I didn’t see it coming, which is a plus point. It cranks into a different gear and turns into a gritty survivalist flick rather than a straight-down-the-line slasher movie, although the antagonists here are seemingly just as keen on slicing up pretty young women as any Jason or other forest primeval.
So quit reading now if you don’t want to know.
OK, so after one of the girls fails to return from firewood-gathering duties, the others split up to look for her and bump into the men again. They all worry for a bit and then split into groups, some back to the boys camp, some back to the girls, and it’s revealed quite out of the blue that it is the trio of men who are the loonies. They capture, rape and kill women.
The girlier-girls are taken first and it’s up to war-traumatised Kate to save the day, which she does with veritable gusto, chopping, bludgeoning and high-kicking the bad guys until she’s predictably the last woman standing. Of course, to keep the wheels a-turnin’, the last aggressor cannot be felled and he just keeps bouncing back to chase her down.
Fortunately, there’s another interesting twist added on at the end that stretches credibility somewhat, but is good nonetheless and we get the cameo from The Descent‘s Shauna MacDonald.
The UK does grit n’ dirt ordeals very well and The Hike doesn’t hold back on its shadier elements, although it must be pointed out that, for a refreshing change, none of the main female characters get naked. In fact, other than a fleeting glimpse of one of the prelude victims, the only nudity we see is male! Kudos to turning the objectification tables.
This effectively extinguishes some of the accusations of misogyny levelled at the film that I’ve read in a few places. The film is essentially about horrible deeds committed against nubile young women but it’s light on the bloodletting and the audience is certainly on the side of the victims. Once revealed, the male characters are drawn as semi-impotent idiots. We WANT Kate to reap a gruesome revenge on them.
Working against the film is a sense of improvised acting. It gets better as it goes but some lines are delivered almost painfully in the first third and, sadly, the leading lady is probably stuck with some of the worst dialogue on offer. Naturalistic it may want to be, but some of the actors over-enunciate to the point of it looking like a drama class camping trip and I’d have thought people would swear a fuck of a lot more if they were in a vicious fight to survive. Or not. Maybe good manners take over?
As a low-bud production, it at least looks great. The photography is top-notch and the camera work makes the most of the remote location, peaking in the scene when Kate runs through the trees brandishing an emergency flare.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by The Hike. The trailer didn’t fill me with anticipatory salivation and for the first half an hour I was wincing every couple of minutes but it crawled from its larva and spread some pretty decent wings. If I ever see Lisa again I’ll be sure to mention her foray into exploitation horror – what actress doesn’t want THAT brought up years after the fact?