Toronto After Dark: Solo (2013) – Isaac Cravit

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The Toronto After Dark Film Festival screened a couple of winners last night, the enjoyable Odd Thomas and the brilliant camp thriller, Solo.

Gillian (Annie Clark) is the newest camp counsellor, and as such must do a solo two night camp out on a lone island. She is driven out by Fred (Richard Clarkin), and left with her tent, a bag of supplies, an emergency radio and flare, and thoughts of a ghost story about the island running in her head.

Pretty soon, it becomes obvious she’s not alone, when first Ray (Daniel Kash) and then Fred’s son Marty (Steven Love) show up. What begins as a simple camping exercise becomes a lesson in survival.

Solo is beautifully shot, making full use of the locations Cravit selected, and Gillian’s isolation feels real, and frightening. There’s a fantastic shot of her tent at night, the only light comes from within, casting her in silhouette against the fabric of the tent, and the rest of the screen is pitch black darkness.

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Clark is earnest, believable with an honest portrayal of a girl who is frightened, but still going on, being stronger than the dangers around her, using her wits to survive.

The film plays gently with the idea of who is actually on the island with her, and the discovery of the creepy doll and what appears to be an abandoned tent are classic set-ups, but Cravit uses them to great effect, gently amping up the tension until you realize you’re on the edge of your seat.

It’s a very well-crafted film, that allows Clark to shine, and makes one rethink the whole idea of camping on your own.

Its story is stark, simple and tautly made. There are no extraneous plot devices or mis-directs, it’s a blatantly simple story that just wraps you right up like a ghost story told by a campfire.

Both the characters of Ray and Marty are both unnerving, right up until you learn exactly who is the real villain, and then the film kicks into high gear as terrors are relived and a fight for survival until dawn is underway.

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Even as this one was getting underway, I knew this one would be a festival favorite, and I was proven right – the crowd erupted into wild spontaneous applause when Gillian vanquished her aggressor, rather violently, and as the audience trailed out of the theater afterwards, a number of them were commenting on how much they loved it, and that it may in fact be their favorite film of the festival so far.

Is it my favorite? It’s definitely in the top 3 so far!

The film is a pitch perfect night in the woods thriller with a strong, imaginative heroine.

If you have the opportunity, this one is not to be missed!!!

Tonight is Sci-Fi night, so what are you watching After Dark?

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