15 · 73 minutes · 24 Feb
Samantha Shields, Martin Compston, Peter Capaldi and Nicola Muldoon
When teenage mum Kelly Ann (Shields) gives up her baby for adoption, sleazy local priest Father Steve (Capaldi) decides it would be great recuperation to take her and four fellow neds on a church youth club orienteering trek in the remote Scottish Highlands. Left to camp overnight whilst the padre shacks up with an earthy local girl, it’s not long before the teens’ chavvy banter and lager-fuelled sleeping-bag gropings are interrupted by the appearance of a ewe-bothering local and discovery of an abandoned infant in ruins strewn with human viscera, leading somehow inevitably to a prehistoric beast-dog tearing out the unfortunate neds’ oesophaguses one by one.
Director Craig Strachan has intriguingly pitched Wild Country as a Ken Loach-style werewolf flick. This has more to do with the presence of Martin Compston, so compelling a newcomer in Loach’s Sweet Sixteen, than any shared artistic traits. The opening shots of Kelly Ann’s face as she gives birth are the film’s most excruciating, but that’s about where any attempts at social realism end. Strachan’s got an interesting concept: a gang of hormone-popping schemies, led by a feisty, ball-busting young woman and armed only with a Swiss Army knife, a couple of pointy sticks and a profane vocabulary versus a deadly, initially unseen foe that’s not a million miles from Neil Marshall’s The Descent. But he ruins it all by revealing too much of his beasties too early – and from then on it’s all painfully inevitable.
Low-budget British horror doesn’t have to be dreadful, especially if utilising economically-imposed austerity to heighten scares. But there’s precious little dread here, with the director intent on flaunting the crapness of his rubberfaced monsters, which plod around like pantomime cows in shag-pile overcoats, whilst the CGI is risible. And Compston screaming “get tae fuck!” whilst chucking stones at a hell-hound surely ranks as the funniest alternative to silver bullets ever. So, for now, Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers remains the last word on Brit lycanthropy.