Solo
Five Stars (out of five)
2013. Released by Shock Till You Drop. Running time 84 minutes. Not rated. Equipped with closed captions. This was reviewed on Amazon Streaming on March 18, 2014.

A doll in the woods? What does it mean? Other than somebody lost their doll.... Annie Clark stars as Gillian, a 17 year old who’s trying to move past a tragedy by becoming a camp counselor for the summer. A main part of her initiation is that she must camp out on an island in the middle of the lake. She must spend the entire time all by herself, or solo (hence the film’s title), and at the end of it she will not only be qualified to care for the little spuds under her care, but personally, she’s hoping to shed some of her personal demons, as well. But no sooner does Gillian set up camp, which includes a tent and all the trimmings, then does she realize that she isn’t alone on the island.

Are those Hobbits over there?! What manner of evil is stalking a vivacious young teen through the woods at Camp Stabmenow? Jason Vorhees? Oh noes! Actually, while Solo plays fast and furious with the clichés of this particular sub-genre of the horror film, writer/director Isaac Cravit is not content to just give us another tired rehash of 1980s horror. So if you’re looking for a gore-fest with half naked women running in fear from a machete-wielding maniac amidst a field of bloody body parts, then keep right on looking, old son, ‘cause this ain’t the movie for you. Although there’s a little blood here and there, Solo is gore-free.

Ok, I've had enough and I'm leaving! End of movie! Bye! Instead Cravit focuses on making us care for the main characters: namely Gillian, who starts out as a troubled young woman with a chip on her shoulder. Clark does a superb job at playing her character, making Gillian extremely sympathetic from the first moment we see her. You wind up rooting for her even before she reaches the island--and Cravit knows that by making the main character sympathetic, that’s how you create terror. Even while she’s in the midst of sheer panic while on the island, Cravit ups the game by making who is the villain a mystery for Gillian to solve, and one she needs to figure out before its too late.

I'm starting to think that this boat ride was a bad idea.... Once the villain is revealed, instead of losing steam, Solo flies full speed ahead on all cylinders, as Gillian is now forced to play a deadly game of cat and mouse with a truly unnerving psychopath who doesn’t wear a hockey mask, or relies on any of those hoary old horror movie crutches. In using the basic formula of the 1980s slasher film, Cravit winds up reinventing this sub genre by sticking to a gritty, realistic premise that still manages to be a gripping thrill ride. There are plenty of gore-filled slasher movies to choose from out there, but take a trip to a (supposedly) deserted island with Gillian and experience genuine terror. --SF

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