Michael (Zack Gold) is very much in love with his pregnant fiancee Jess (Cooper Harris). Their wedding is due soon and he's busy working in a local warehouse to pay both for it and the impending child.
Alas, Michael also has a history of heroin addiction. Although Jess believes him to be clean of the gear, he's recently lapsed back into using it.
Indeed, we first meet up as he wakes up one morning in a stranger's house, having injected the drug the evening before. He surveys the other resting bodies around the place as he searches for his sneakers, and happens upon a young woman who's shivering from a bad trip. Michael comforts her, and reaches for a blanket on the nearby settee to wrap around her. Carefully removing said blanket from the knucklehead sleeping beneath it, Michael's alarmed to see that it was also covering an open holdall containing $12,000.00 in cash and a sizeable bag of cocaine.
Naturally, after giving the girl one last bout of reassurance, Michael very stealthily makes off with the bag.
So when four assailants wearing hoodies and hockey masks abduct Michael from outside the warehouse the following day, you're likely to assume the dealer wants his stash back - correct? Wrong! Theses jokers turn out to be Michael's mates - Alan (Jason Tobias), Louie (Bennett Viso), Shane (Bob Turton) and John (Jake Crumbine) - who are stealing him away with Jess's blessing for a stag weekend in the countryside. Well, it's his own fault: he didn't have the good grace to turn up to his "proper" bachelor party in Las Vegas.
To this end, the lads have arranged for the five of them to spend a couple of nights camping in the hills. They've brought the tents and beers; Jess has packed clothes etc for Michael. And he still doesn't seem too thrilled to be spending time with his pals.
This is because he's preoccupied thinking about how to next get a line of cocaine up his nose. He has a few measures of the stuff hidden in his bag, but has to make excuses occasionally to leave the camp fire and slope off for a piss or whatever, just so he can top himself up. Meanwhile, best man Alan and co keep glancing furtively at each other whenever Michael's not looking...
On the second night, Michael retires early to his tent and looks in his bag for his secret stash. It's gone! Could one of his friends have taken it, or perhaps there really was someone lurking in the nearby bushes the previous evening - just as Michael had thought, even though his friends had dismissed that notion?
Michael's pissed off and accuses tent-mate John of stealing his gear. John denies this and calls it a night, himself retiring for bed. A few hours later, in the dead of night, Shane wakes the group up: he's convinced he heard John screaming. Sure enough, John's missing from his tent. Michael was so deep in a withdrawal-induced sleep that he didn't hear anything.
The remaining four go searching the nearby woods for John ... only to discover him wrapped in plastic in their car. Alan declares him as being dead. Worse still, as they attempt to leave, they learn that the car battery has been tampered with. Er, these boys are going nowhere...
Of course, panic sets in. It's bad enough for Alan, Louie and Shane ... but Michael also has his withdrawal symptoms to contend with (we regularly cut away to his flashbacks of the fateful house party which resulting in him stealing the aforementioned holdall). Things go from bad to worse the following morning when the lads continue to trek through the woods in search of civilization, and another one of their group bites the dust...
Thomas Jakobsen's THE UNRAVELING is an interesting proposition. It takes a hackneyed survivalist horror theme a la DELIVERANCE and toys with convention, proffering a cast of characters who are all too aware of the cliches they're walking through (references are made throughout to people pranking one another with faux scares etc). It also dares to throw in a couple of major twists, while transforming itself into less of a traditional slasher and more a meditation on the insidious nature of addiction and the pain it causes to those around the afflicted.
However, it's these seeds of ambition which undo the film's best work. On the one hand, the cast are uniformly excellent and, abetted by Jakobsen and Justin S Monroe's above-par script, they provide us with a bunch of believable, likeable characters who're far removed from the usual interchangeable horror movie fodder. The cinematography is gorgeous and the score is thoughtfully successful. But the film's reliance on hedging its bets on an obvious, and frankly stupid, twist undermines any semblance of success in the first hour.
It's a shame. I'd still say THE UNRAVELING is worth a look but the final act really is preposterous, and seasoned viewers will see it coming from a mile away.
Matchbox Films are releasing THE UNRAVELING onto UK DVD. We were sent an online screener for review purposes. This showcased the film in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio and looked incredibly crisp, as a 2015 film shot in 4K HD should do. The cut here was the full uncensored version of the film - 82 minutes and 36 seconds in length - and looked rather fabulous, with pin-sharp clean images, robust colours and natural flesh tones.
English 2.0 audio was solid throughout.
THE UNRAVELING falls victim of its own concept but does contain enough well-drawn characters and reliable performances, not to mention great photography, to warrant it a look.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Matchbox Films|