Horror Thriller Writers Retreat, despite its seemingly innocuous title, is definitely a one-of-a-kind cinematic fare, and it comes to DVD on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 thanks to Synkronized Films.
Initially released in Spain back in 2015 at Sitges Film Festival, this mystery jigsaw puzzle is a feature-length directorial debut for Diego Rocha (O Potro short 2017) and penned by Jeremy Sheldon (Montana 2014, Golden Years 2016) and C.M. Taylor. In this breathtaking slice of time, Writers Retreat is the story of a motley assemblage of wannabe writers stuck on a deserted island and determined to wrestle with their creative juices in pursuit of their dreams of becoming the next best-selling author. However, they are unwittingly destined to embark on an emotional roller-coaster adventure when things suddenly go awry and an attendee goes missing without a trace.
Camilla Beeput (The Harry Hill Movie 2013, Mortdecai 2015) plays the role of Zandra, a best-selling author who is in the midst of a writer’s block carved out of obsidian stone. Overseeing a unique writing workshop that taps into the darkness that dwells deep within each human soul, she begins by sharing her favorite quote by Mark Twain that has sustained her throughout her writing career, “Write about what you know.” A simple phrase but fraught with meaning. After all, how can you share with the world a meaningful and impactful story on something you know absolutely nothing about?
The characters in Writers Retreat are as colorful as the light spectrum that is propagated once sunlight has penetrated a crystal prism, and each character is peeled back layer-by-layer much like an onion. There is Jo, a wide-eyed, black-haired beauty who is an infatuated fan of Zandra, and is played by Poppy Drayton (Downton Abbey series, The Shannara Chronicles series). Then, there is Alix Wilton Regan (The Wife 2017, Assassin’s Creed: Origins video game 2017), who plays the role of Daisy.
Helen Ryan (The Elephant Man 1980, Misunderstood 1984) plays the feisty character of W.G., while Jacqueline King (55 Degrees North series, Doctor Who series) assumes the role of Trinë, a woman who consistently passes up the opportunity to bare her soul to the others. Brad Moore (Montana 2014, North v South 2015) skillfully dons the persona of Steve, who handles emotional turmoil with a swig or two of a preferred malt beverage. Christopher Fairbank (Batman 1989, Guardians of the Galaxy 2014), on the other hand, plays the amicable bloke with a wooden cane.
The individual cast members are able to convey to viewers the vulnerabilities of their respective characters, while collectively they display a remarkable aura of camaraderie; together they paint a realistic, free-flowing portrait for the viewer. Needless to say, things in the plot spiral out-of-control and the viewer comes face-to-face with the conceptual idea that ‘appearances can be deceiving.’ Macabre objects in juxtaposition with the island’s serene landscape hint at what is to come throughout the film, while this beautiful scenery is complemented by the original song, “A Book for Me (Welcome to the Island),” written by Robert Lord.
As a film, Writers Retreat is chock-full of suspenseful and visceral “fight or flight” trigger moments where the nervous system involuntarily undergoes a jack-in-the-box sequence of motion. In short, this is not a movie for those who cannot stomach the grisly acts of a knife-wielding psycho the likes of Norman Bates or Jason, nor for those that faint at the sight of a whole lot of bloodletting and blood-curdling screams of agony. If one happens to have an insatiable appetite for a simmering murder mystery that chronicles horrific events that transform the human core and reveal exactly what a person is capable of doing in order to survive an ordeal of this kind, then this is truly your cup of tea.
Additionally, Writers Retreat moves at a rapid clip, keeping its audience on their toes as to who is responsible for the nightmarish events unfolding on the island. With a splendidly-choreographed score and cinematography to match, this is a film that contrasts its on-screen mayhem with marvelous visual and aural relief.
Publishers are certainly apt to think again before doling out another rejection notice after partaking of this particular retreat. As we now know, one too many rejections can certainly unhinge a mentally frail psyche! Also, if you were considering a writers’ retreat in a secluded locale, you might want to reconsider that idea, as well. Remember: appearances can be somewhat deceiving! Despite or perhaps because of the eerie forewarning and all the bloodletting, CrypticRock give Writers Retreat 5 of 5 stars!