Toronto After Dark 2013: Solo Review

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Rudimentarily shot, predictably written, with mediocre performances and painfully stilted dialogue, Solo fails to thrill or scare. The story sets up far too many plot lines, and struggles to keep them together, making most of them irrelevant. Sadly, this was the weakest link at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Gillian is a troubled teenager. Recovering from an undisclosed traumatic accident, she decides the best way to cope is to take a job as a counselor at a summer camp. As part of her training, and before her hiring can be made official, she must complete a solo camping trip on a nearby island. Told ghost stories by the other counselors, and hearing strange noises once on the island, terror begins to set in. Gillian may not be alone, and must fight to survive what lies within the woods.

Horribly stilted dialogue forcefully gives us the details the writer’s were too ham-fisted to delicately lay out as the film progressed. Instead, we’re beaten over the head with the facts. Gillian (Annie Clark) is a troubled teen! She needs to get away! She’s done something bad! She’s angst-ridden! Okay, we get it. The problem is, we’re never made to care. As such, she fails as a heroine.

Instead of carefully crafting her back-story, it’s simply slapped together with some glue and duct tape, and seldom revisited. Her grave transgression is eventually revealed, and attempts are made to tie it into what’s happening on the island. However, the connection is weak, and poorly pieced together, rendering that plot point moot.

When we finally lay eyes on our villain, a full-grown man in a teenager’s worn out t-shirt and short shorts, he’s less terrifying than obnoxious. You wind up more afraid of his pit stains and body odour than his insanity and wrath. The decision feels lazy, and more based on an inside joke than true thought.

Admittedly during the Q & A that followed the screening, when asked how the villain was chosen, cast and crew replied with “the one who looked creepiest in a tiny t-shirt.” The creation of a masterful villain should never be left in the hands of one department. It should be carefully built from the ground up. Even Jason, a character with an iconic costume, was well crafted before they put a hockey mask on him. It feels as if they were too lazy to create a well-written character, and instead relied on cheap tactics to instill fear.

I could continue, but then I fear my criticism may appear to be little more than knit picking and cease to hold water. It’s unfortunate that Solo fails as it does. It has good bones. Sadly, its development and production simply wasn’t handled with the care and attention it deserved, resulting in a disappointing film.

Ariel Fisher
Cinephile. Freelance Media Journalist. Motown Enthusiast. Amateur Photographer.