Kate and four of her girlfriends venture into the British countryside for a getaway weekend hiking trip. Along their journey to their favorite camping spot, Sunset Point, they encounter a number of others hiking and camping nearby from a group of Eastern Europeans living off the land to a trio of rock climbing lads. When one of the girls goes missing the first night, the girls team up with the three young men in search of their friend. Soon they discover someone is out to collect each of the women before the night is through.
Rupert Bryan’s The Hike takes the 80’s wilderness slasher formula and mixes it with a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of modern torture p*rn twists and turns. It’s Descent meets Hostel in the wild. For the most part the combination works resulting in a gripping, uncomfortable confrontation between the five women and the killers. While the protagonists are engaging and a likable bunch, their assailants are less remarkable and a film like this depends on a memorable, imposing set of villains. Unfortunately the antagonists in The Hike are underwhelming. The number of twists the film wears on its sleeve are uninspired, shallow and predictable, right to the very end. Fortunately they and the script are handled with a steadfast hand by director Rupert Bryan and the film moves at a quick pace.
The Hike rests on the shoulders of its final girl, Kate played by Zara Phythian. She provides the film with a strong central character and a perseverance to survive. It’s a stand out performance giving the film a character to root for and to follow. Phythian not only gives the character a strong physical presence but a complex emotional one as well when she is allowed to do so. Unfortunately by the end, she (and her character) are reduced to the standard final girl role seen in most slasher films and she looses most of what made her character rich earlier in the film. For a character that screams to go all 80’s Schwarzenegger, 90’s Willis or even Scream’s Neve Campbell, she ends up more like Adrienne King and her 80’s cousins – which is a shame. The film also stars Tamer Hassan, Barbara Nedeljakova, Ben Lloyd-Holmes, Daniel Caren, Dominic Le Moignan, Jemma Bolt, Lisa-Marie Long, Shauna Macdonald and Stephanie Siadatan.
The film sets up a number of candidates in the film, all eyeing for the identity of the killer; however, the script pulls a mid-film twist that is highly telegraphed. It’s an interesting idea that doesn’t entirely pay off mostly because of the characters themselves. They change mostly in their actions but not in their characters; they lack an emotional instability that could have provided a more intense conflict. They are basically bad because they are doing bad things. But they have no menace or frightening motivation. Sure, they are killing, maiming and raping – but that’s the entirety of their characters’ definitions. They end up being shallow slashers with no mystery and no compromise.
While film benefits from keeping its kills realistic and natural, it also suffers from a lack of imagination. The results is the film never reaches an “oh crap” moment. It never pushes things to the edge; it never becomes dangerous. It plays it too safe. It may be an intentional direction on the part of Bryan as he handles the material well and keeps things in motion. But the nature of the film, the slasher roots and the torture p*rn inclinations cry out for an element of urgency the film never achieves. It still manages to be thrilling and exciting when it needs to but it could have pushed the envelope at least a little bit.
The Hike is a entertaining but underwhelming slasher film that lacks punch and shock. Zara Phythian provides the film with a strong central character, even if the film looses touch with her by the film’s end. Strong production values, solid performances throughout, a decent script and great locations keeps things interesting and thrilling. For a thriller, the villains are adequate; but, for the slasher film The Hike wants to be, the killers are lukewarm and a bit pedestrian. Despite having its share of moments and action, The Hike plays it too safe to make a lasting impression.
2.5 out of 5
The Hike (2011)