Is there anything scarier than hatred and bigotry?
In new horror/thriller The Retreat, Renee (Tommie-Amber Pine) and Valerie (Sarah Allen) are a young couple who venture off into the wilderness for some secluded romance. With their relationship hitting a crossroads, the two women hope that this weekend in a remote cabin will provide the spark that they need to move forward together. However, as they attempt to navigate their issues, they are terrified to realize that their lives are in peril. Hunted by a group of para-military extremists, Renee and Valerie must put their relationship woes aside and fight in order to escape with their lives.
Directed by Pat Mills, The Retreat is solid horror fun that blends its terror with social commentary. Though only 81 minutes in length, Mills makes good use of her runtime. By keeping the exposition to a minimum, Mills keeps this story locked into the moment. In doing so, she manages to keep the film focused and energetic. At the same time, the film also benefits from some solid performances from its cast. With some enjoyable chemistry, Pine and Allen hold the film together. With energy and enthusiasm, the duo work well and their relationship serves as the film’s emotional core.
As the film’s villains, Rossif Sutherland and Aaron Ashmore invest themselves into their characters, giving them an unyielding menace. Admittedly, it’s a little frustrating that talents like Sutherland and Ashmore are relegated to such one-dimensional characters. However, that’s also necessary in this case. These particular monsters are not meant to have any redeemable qualities in them and fleshing them out may have made them more sympathetic than they are supposed to be.
Though light on ‘jump scares’, The Retreat‘s greatest asset is its social commentary. Following in the tradition of recent thrillers like Get Out and The Invisible Man, The Retreat uses its scares to highlight the pain caused by bigotry and hatred. However, instead of issues of racial discrimination or feminism, Mills chooses to focus on intolerance of the LGBTQ community. (In fact, it’s worth noting that The Retreat also serves as an opportunity to break free from the ‘bury your gays’ trope that often happens in genre movies such as this.)
As Renee and Valerie venture out for a weekend of romance, this secluded retreat becomes a metaphor for the vulnerability that still take place when members of the LGBTQ community step out into the light. To their attackers, Renee and Valerie’s relationship is perceived as a threat to their more conservative way of life and that breeds into hatred. With this in mind, there’s a cry of hurt and anger that underscores the film and adds depth to its meaning. While they battle the evil around them, they show their resilience and strength in a place of oppression. As such, their journey becomes about much more than simply getting free from their captors. In essence, as Renee and Valerie fight for their lives, so too are they fighting for the right to be themselves.
As the credits roll, The Retreat has accomplished its goal as pure horror fun. Filled with the required blood-thirsty villains and violence, the film makes for an evening of enjoyable entertainment. Nevertheless, the real value of the film lies in the statement that it makes. By giving voice to the LGBTQ community in the face of oppression, The Retreat feels as much of a claim to hope as it does a cry for help. By using Renee and Valerie’s struggle to survive as a metaphor for the resilience of the LGBTQ community, the film shows the damage incurred by the hatred of others and the strength needed to overcome it.
The Retreat is available on VOD on Friday, May 21st, 2021.