Last Great Wilderness, The

Director: David Mackenzie

U.K.| 2002. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 95 mins.

Before making Young Adam, David Mackenzie directed some excellent short films as well as this decidedly odd and virtually unclassifiable low-budget feature. Co-written by and starring David’s brother Alastair, who is well known for playing Archie in the television series Monarch of the Glen, The Last Great Wilderness starts out as a road movie before careering off into murkier cinematic terrain that takes in swathes of Celtic myth, Gothic horror and black character comedy. It begins with Charlie (Mackenzie) driving to Skye on a mission to wreak revenge on a pop star who has stolen his wife. En route he picks up hitch-hiker Vicente (Jonny Phillips), a weirdo who claims to be a gigolo in flight from the gangster husband of one of his clients. When their car runs out of petrol in the Scottish Highlands, the two men end up at the remote Moor Lodge, a decidedly unconventional establishment that, despite the presence of stuffed birds in its lobby, is not a branch of the Bates motel from Psycho but a retreat for lost souls battling with their individual demons.
The references to other movies-everything from The Old Dark House and Cul-de-sac to The Wicker Man and Deliverance-are more playful than serious. In a sense these cinematic pointers act as red herrings, since Mackenzie sets out to confound our expectations at almost every turn. The residents of Moor Lodge are not the familiar psychos from countless horror movies, yet their eccentricities and hang-ups are genuinely sinister rather than merely amusing. The darkness and madness that engulfs the cloistered protagonists is not as masterfully orchestrated here as it is in Young Adam, but Mackenzie is already preparing the ground and displaying a fearless talent.

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