My notes on The Unraveling A year out of rehab, addict Michael (Zack Gold) has a pregnant fiancee, Jess (Cooper Harris), and is sullenly working a warehouse job – he has also been backsliding into drug use and has impulsively stolen a wad of from some spooky-scary dealers. So, it’s not exactly a surprise when four Jason-masked, hoodie-sporting guys snatch him from his workplace, dump him in the trunk of a car and drive him out into the wilderness … only they turn out to be his best friends – loyal Alan (Jason Tobias), wiseass John (Jake Crumbine), nervy Louie (Bennett Viso) and oddly manic Shane (Bob Turton) – and this impromptu trip is a cheap alternative to the stag weekend in Vegas Michael didn’t bother turning up for. Michael has no choice but to go with it, but keeps snorting on the sly, and long-simmering resentments over his behaviour surface in the banter … then John disappears, only to turn up dead and wrapped in plastic. After that, the film picks up the pace and becomes a survival thriller as the guys are picked off one by one by an unknown force and Michael – almost as irked by the loss of his stash as his friends – starts remembering how he got into this cleft stick and hallucinating in extremis.
Director Thomas Jakobsen, who co-wrote with Justin S. Monroe, stages such a basic Deliverance-style ordeal that it’s obvious the film is holding some cards back – and, in fact, the big reveal is slightly too guessable and risks losing a genre audience who still feel burned by the way April Fool’s Day turned out. However, the quartet of performances have enough depth and individuality – for once, the victims aren’t interchangeable – to hold the interest. And – to give the game away – the fact that this all turns out to be staged as a radical form of intervention sets up a subtler chill involving the familiar figure of the helpful, smiling yet unspeaking pick-up truck driver (Gary Kraus) who seems to save the lone survivor but then delivers him back to his tormentors. Here, the guy is theoretically benevolent, but like counsellor Richard (James C. Burns) he comes over as ambiguously menacing … and the reach of this program, as demonstrated by a mid-credits sequence that ties a major loose end, is almost not reassuring, with the ringing phone at the final fade-out suggesting that though Michael has purged some of his demons he might have undertaken some obligations which won’t be comfortable to fulfil. Odd-looking Turton makes the most of what might be a nondescript role, and is responsible for much of the sinister undertone.