Surviving Crooked Lake Sascha Drews & Matthew Miller

Surviving Crooked Lake Sascha Drews & Matthew Miller
The whole survival-in-the-wilderness, man-against-nature genre has been, for the most part, a strictly male affair where women tread reluctantly, if at all. I am told this preoccupation has something to do with a spiritual connection, creativity and some sort of right-of-passage to manhood. Whether it's that affected twit from Into the Wild or Burt Reynolds and crew in Deliverance, these sojourns limit themselves to the Y-chromosome, while the women struggling in films like Limbo and The River Wild do so at the hands of male pursuers. This is what distinguishes Surviving Crooked Lake from the many similar entries prior, as here we have four 14-year-old girls battling the elements to find their way home in the Canadian Shield. Told mostly from the perspective of the emotionally scarred Steph (Stephannie Richardson), the story starts out with a de facto male leader (Steph's older brother) supervising the girls on their overnight camping trip. But aside from comforting his insecure sister, he does little more than smoke pot and mack on the much younger Morgan (Morgan McCunn). Suffering a mortal accident early on, the girls are left to their own devices. Gender expectation in cinema suggests that the girls would passively wait for rescue while blaming each other for their predicament, but here they immediately consult the map and head out, dead body in tow. This is where the personalities come out, along with significant tension, with Candice (Mausner) taking on the calm and collected leadership role, and Alysha (Aubin) offering the voice of reason in the face of Steph's increasing instability. While clever in its genre handlings and featuring reasonable performances from the batch of newcomers (in particular, Steph Richardson), a limited story with character contrivances (the slutty girl has daddy issues) keep it from being a great film. It can also be a frustrating viewing experience, as it's shot almost entirely in close-up, which indeed gives a contrary feeling of claustrophobia, but doesn't allow us the space to reflect and establish. That said, for a low budget film from a batch of newcomers it is quite impressive, and it does engage for its appropriately brief duration. No supplements are included with the DVD, unfortunately. (Mongrel Media)