Rapid Fear

[a.k.a. White Panic]
Dir: Geoff Cox
Star: Peter Kent, Nick Morelli, Craig Marriott, Helen Christinson

This Australian import has an intriguing premise: six juvenile delinquents are sent on a rafting trip to a remote forest with a former criminal, Storer (Kent), in an effort to straighten them out and make them mature from whiny baby criminals into mature, morally-responsible adults. It's not just the fresh air and physical exercise: the social worker travelling with them vanishes, another party member is injured, and communication with the outside world is cut off. However, are these dangers real or being generated by Storer? Because his two criminal colleagues are nearby - and there's also a fourth, unidentified figure nearby in the trees. Is this connected to stories of an abandoned mental hospital in the woods?

This could go any one of a number of interesting ways: horror, psychological thriller, action. Unfortunately, self-indulgent tedium is the actual result here: after a brisk enough start, in which the scenario is set-up, we were then waiting for this film to get going. But it never did, and we were left hanging, hoping for an explanation - or even some gratuitous nudity - right up until an ending which is as implausible as it is convoluted. Kent does deliver a nicely-judged performance, with Storer coming across as someone who wants to atone for past crimes, but maintain his personal integrity at the same time. Unfortunately, the teenagers come across as vacuous and annoying, with some of the worst "acting" I've seen - and at the risk of spoilering, the film doesn't even have the guts to kill them off in impressive ways. This is far more likely to provoke Rapid Eye Movement in the viewer than Rapid Fear.

[The film is released in the US on May 29th, in widescreen. For more information, visit MTI's website.]

April 2007

Stream of unconsciousness
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