Often a film is distinctly Canadian for its budget, its folksiness, or, unfortunately, its low expectations. Solo, written and directed by Isaac Cravit of Toronto offers something else that is decided Canadian in its own way, while still being effective and entertaining.
This quiet horror-thriller that finds a young girl terrorized during a camp retreat has a familiar setting, and plays upon ideas of trust and comfort. A small island, one you might find on any lake across Ontario or Canada for that matter, is the scene of the tension. It’s an environment both beautiful and haunting.
Actress Annie Clark, also of Toronto and better known for her appearances on Degrassi: The Next Generation, is Gillian, the heroine in peril, but just because she is terrorized, doesn’t mean she isn’t doing it to herself.
A simple premise gets underway quickly, as Gillian, an aspiring camp counselor, must first take an island overnight across the weekend in order to complete her training. Maybe it’s that this is advertised as a mystery, and that our protagonist is this sweet, pure, gorgeous young woman, we start to suspect the motives and pasts of the few characters we meet – the men, to be exact.
So Solo keeps you on edge, as Gillian finds a spot alone in the forest, and deals with noises and nightmares. She is nervous, certainly, hearing stories and hearing uncertain sounds, but the viewer too is uneasy.
It’s not only that we don’t know what is going to happen to her, but we’re the voyeur for the beginning of the film. Gillian is an instantly sympathetic character (and not just because of her silly camp uniform). Her blue eyes, soft features, and level-headedness make her one to root for; she is neither the completely helpless victim nor the violent temptress that such genre films embrace.
While it’s not especially novel, it’s effective, and the slow rise in tension throughout pays off second half that ratchets up the blood and discomfort. Best viewed alone.