We have a tendency in the horror community to rhapsodize about particular epochs, what Pynchon called a “temporal homesickness for the decade we were born in.” It’s usually the 80s, as tastes are chiseled from the stone of youth. That’s fine and all, but it’s our opinion that to truly love horror, one has to keep pace with the here and now.
When something like White Raven comes along, it’s something that is at once familiar, yet charts new ground and reminds us that the genre is alive and well.
It’s brazen and ballsy enough to provide ample depth and backstory for a film which is, on the surface, about being trapped in the backwoods. Just as much effort is put into the camaraderie as there is the scares, a lesson it could teach some of those 80s classics we all grew up on.
Much like the outstanding Goodnight Mommy explored mother / son relationships in heretofore unforeseen ways, White Raven breaks down male friendship dynamics when a “boys weekend” in the BC forest turns these guys into men real quick.
Erratic, suicidal Pete (pictured above) is the group’s he-man, a buff loner survivalist who mocks his soft Vancouver city-dwelling friends. Problem is, he lacks the moral scruples of a Lewis from James Dickey’s Deliverance, and pines over an ex who’s clearly moved on and since remarried. Then there’s Jake, an aging cad who runs a restaurant and has impregnated a staffer. Baby-faced Kevin seemingly has it all including a wife, a child and a condo, and bristles when pressed over whether there’s “trouble in Paradise”. And finally, Dan is an ex-pilot who lost his license to fly after failing a random drug test.
Proportionally, though their screen time might be smaller, it’s the women whose brief, yet rich appearances contextualize everything that comes after. We get clear insights from them as to why these 30-something guys might need a break away from their lives, “to get away from it all.”
Once in the bush, these man-children fail to “put away childish things” to quote Corinthians and behave like spring break coeds, shotgunning beer and staging “five second fights,” in which they mock punch each other.
It’s the conspicuous male bonding that conceals the psychic scars beneath.
To say anything more about White Raven would be too revealing.
We can say that the directing, script and performances are top-drawer throughout. Like the very best survivalist movies (the aforementioned Deliverance, The Hills Have Eyes, Southern Comfort, and others) Mother Nature provides a great external boundary and is just as much a star here.
**** (out of 5)
[Be sure to check out the Really Awful Movies Podcast: a Celebration of Low Budget Cinema]