THRILLER; 1hr 38min
STARRING: Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca
Altered state: Wilcox
First impressions are seldom wrong. Driving alone to a new start through the Pacific Northwest, grieving her husband’s suicide, Jessica (Willcox) reflexively senses danger in the aggressive driving of a motorist she encounters (Menchaca as Man), and although he’s all smiley politeness when they later cross paths at a motel, his apologetic act feels distinctly off. Sure enough, one slashed tyre and bruising, dead-of-night encounter later, Jessica comes to in the basement of a proverbial cabin in the woods. The Man is in control now, and this time his smile looks very different. Jessica is terrified, but when she makes a run for it, the perils of the wild prove equally frightening.
Willcox has to be one of the best sports out there. Not only is she up against it in every scene of director John Hyams’s tautly propulsive trial by fire, but Jessica has an A-to-Z of awfulness to contend with: held captive by a backwoods slayer, then battered by the forces of nature (speared through the foot with a stick, tossed in freezing-looking rapids, rained on, et cetera), and all with her sadistic nemesis in hot pursuit. The undaunted actress storms through at the emotionally shredded pitch of a cornered animal, while for his unsavoury part, Menchaca is busy paring evil to its core as the Man segues from genial creep to full-blown psycho. When, driven to distraction, he shrieks to an unseen Jessica that “I’m gonna get you, you delicious fucking bitch! ” nobody watching would doubt for a second that he means it.