In 2012, Katie Aselton along with Mark Duplass, tackled the survival-horror sub-genre from the female perspective in Black Rock. It’s not without its problems, but the friendship aspect of the trio of women fending against a group of hunters always rang true.
In Dartmoor Killing, director Peter Nicholson, along with co-writer Isabelle Grey, approach the sub-genre with a Mills & Boon-type sensibility, mixing psychological issues and betrayal with an undercurrent of eroticism, but it falls short in its attempts to draw a convincing relationship between two best friends.
Susan (Rebecca Night) gifts her best friend Becky (Gemma-Leah Devereux) with a hike across the moors in celebration of her upcoming nuptials. But the pair are both hiding secrets from one another, which leads to a disturbing set of events unfolding.
Enter a tall, dark stranger in the form of a local guide called Chris (Callum Blue) and another wedge is driven between them as they spend the night at his farmhouse. As soon as Becky enters the premises she starts suffering from flashbacks, which point to an ominous event.
There’s little sense of urgency as the pair slog their way across the moors or try to escape from death. Though attempts to upend expectations are made through the characters’ motivations, they often fall into farce.
In one instance a frightening grand reveal is followed by the two women taking a nap instead of frantic panic. Any semblance of tension is removed here by the fact that no one seems genuinely scared, and many of their decisions are made in a slow or awkward fashion.
There’s no arguing that Nicholson takes stunning shots of the surrounding landscape and the appearance of David Hayman as Chris’s father is a welcome addition, but the story isn’t up to scratch.
A dubious ending goes for a cheap twist that is perplexing in its treatment of the word victim and feels more suited to a late night Hollyoaks special.
Dartmoor Killing is not without merit, but the shallow handling of serious issues including the repression of a tragic incident mars it somewhat.