The directorial debut of Teresa Sutherland, writer of The Wind, this has quite a bit in common with Joe Lo Truglio’s Outpost – a damaged female protagonist takes a job in the wilds, which requires her to be alone with nature for months at a stretch … but takes her mental issues along with her, and eventually cracks up. However, Lo Truglio takes an earthier, bloodier, more practical approach – while Sutherland gradually erases the traces of conventional plot which seem to be set up early on and springs more and more disorienting, subjective, mind-warping devices which do little to address (real) podcast conspiracy theories about the high number of people who go missing in US national parks while venturing into realms of cosmic horror. If it has a problem, it’s that we’ve taken this particular path to strangeness rather often lately – but it’s played with enormous conviction by Georgina Campbell (Barbarian), who is alone (or almost alone) onscreen for great swathes of the film, as unsure about what she’s seeing and hearing as the audience.
Lennon (Campbell) is a new Ranger in the Arvores National Park – the location is actually in Portugal – and already jittery enough, with her nails bitten bloody, to suggest that she might not be the best person to send out to a flimsy cabin in the middle of nowhere for ninety days. Zhang (Wai Ching Ho), the Chief Ranger, advises ‘leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories, kill nothing but time’, but Lennon has already warped these rules … her younger sister Jenny went missing in the woods when Lennon was a child, precipitating further family tragedies, and Lennon has been after this job for some time so she can conduct a private search, presumably for a body though who knows what she’s thinking. Are the missing being taken by Bigfoot, the wendigo, tree spirits, psychobillies or aliens? Sutherland doesn’t have an answer, but drops a lot of hints – though, by that point, we’re more concerned for Lennon’s frazzled mind, which comes as undone as her once-neat hairstyle, than with the Censor-like mystery of what happened to little Jenny.