Folks, if you’re planning a holiday, whether it’s a hunting trip, a romantic getaway, an adventure with the Brownies, a shortcut through Death Valley or a boozy stag party in the wilderness, never, EVER, make your journey in a motor home. YOU WILL DIE! And not in a nice licked-to-death-by-puppies kinda way. You’ve seen your share of movies and TV shows, you know this already.

Board what our colonial cousins insist on referring to as an RV and you’ll be chased by Satanists (Race With The Devil), raped, murdered and eaten by mutant cannibals (The Hills Have Eyes), slaughtered by demonic dolls (Bride Of Chucky) attacked by vampires (From Dusk Till Dawn and Near Dark) or zombies (World War Z). Or, perhaps worst of all, be forced to spend time with Simon Pegg and Fat Best Friend Nick Frost. Or, in the case of writer/director Coz Greenop’s debut feature Wandering Rose, you may wind up being bored to death.

Rose (Carina Birrell) and Theo (David Wayman) escape the hustle and bustle of big city life for what Theo hopes will be one last romantic weekend away, camping in the wilds of Scotland in their luxury motor home, Rose being a few weeks pregnant. But the couple are far from alone; Rose is haunted by a Sadako-like (Sadako-lite?) apparition of a girl she first glimpses on the road and their first fitful night’s camping is disturbed by the interruption of a mysterious, and possibly malevolent, local policeman, the sinister PC Thwaites (Cameron Jack). Plagued by ghostly visions that may just be all in her head, the prickly, troubled Rose’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, her sanity unraveling as her demons threaten to consume her…

I wanted to like Wandering Rose, I really did. I love horror movies and it gladdens my heart that someone’s made a low-budget British horror movie that for once eschews the tedious, gonzo-porn aesthetic of the bin lorry of found-footage movies clogging the virtual shelves of Amazon and Netflix in favour of telling an actual story. Sure, Wandering Rose may look more like an episode of Hollyoaks but at least it doesn’t look like a cheap grumble flick shot in a Luton car park where a chubby office manager services white van men and 2nd division footballers, all bleached of their humanity by the sickly green night-vision that’s become de rigueur in cheap Brit horror films (and it’s particularly refreshing that at no point does the film fall back on that tired old cliché).

And I liked the actors. Birrell is good as the spiky Rose who’s concealing a dark secret, eliciting audience sympathy without ever being particularly likable. In fact, pregnancy and (possible) ghostly visions aside, she’s as moody as you’d expect anyone to be if you whisked them away for a romantic weekend only for them to discover your idea of romance is to constantly hump their leg like a spaniel in heat in a camper van in the Highlands. I know I wouldn’t be best pleased. Wayman’s adequate as non-threatening sex pest Theo who vacillates between confused, horny and concerned without ever being able to quite work out why his pregnant and mardy girlfriend is in a bit of a strop and won’t give him one (hint: Scottish car parks are far from romantic even when halfway up a mountain). And Cameron Jack is excellent as the threatening PC Thwaites; a thuggish, slightly rapey reimagining of Balamory’s lovable metrosexual PC Plum as a gravel-voiced sexual predator.

Wandering Rose’s failures can all be laid at the feet of writer/director Greenop who’s thrown together a visually uninteresting psychological chiller that singularly fails to chill and, even at a nippy wee 70 minutes, drags like a clubfoot, it’s protagonists neither likable or involving. The script is heavy-handed and thumpingly obvious, each development telegraphed. And it’s just a little misogynous, revolving as it does around a rather unsympathetic vision of abortion that at first feels like a rather crass pro-life diatribe, the film’s ghost possibly nothing more than the spectral manifestation of Rose’s guilt and her actions attributable to some form of PTSD, before the plot squirms and turns on itself in a series of ludicrous twists that negate everything you’ve been watching.

Apparently ‘inspired’, if that’s the word, by the director’s own experience of being on a miserable skiing holiday where he broke his leg and was forced to spend his time in the camper van, Greenop’s film does at least succeed in one respect: it accurately conveys the boredom and frustration of being trapped in a camper van halfway up a Scottish mountain with Greenop.

Movie Review: Wandering Rose
2.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)

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