The Retreat Plot
Renee and Valerie have reached a tipping point in their relationship, something that Valerie hopes to discuss during their getaway to a remote cabin belonging to their friends. When their hosts are nowhere to be found, and the couple’s discussion goes sour, the ladies do not realize there are much worse times ahead of them. Specifically, militant extremists who do not welcome members of the LGBTQIA community to their neighborhood. The innocent couple must choose between their humanity and their lives.
A New Take on a Classic
Horror fans are no stranger to the classic terror in the creepy remote cabin story. It’s been done with zombies, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and sometimes all of these monsters at once. To that end, the premise of The Retreat is entirely predictable. Renee and Valerie come across the evil yokels in the local convenience store, where Renee rebuffs the advances of classic “man’s man” Jed. The audience is unsure if Valerie is uncomfortable revealing their romantic status because she is unsure of their relationship, or if she has some deep instinct that it won’t be well-received, but Renee is unfazed.
Viewers also have already seen an unwelcome fate befall the also gay cabin hosts, though it played out off-screen. This both removes suspense in watching the ladies seek their hosts, but adds a delicious dread in how they will come across the unlucky duo. Really this is a paint-by-numbers horror movie plot, with the exception of the notion that there can be no “retreat” for marginalized people.
The extremist’s violent hunting of gay couples is both gut wrenching and entirely too believable. Being excluded from the sexual selection of two attractive women was too much for their fragile egos, and allows them to emotionally reduce these women to simple prey. We get insight into this in Valerie’s explanation of deer hunting: The deer population was intentionally reduced through “selective slaughter.” This mirrors how the extremists view the LGBTQIA community-They must either conform to their standards or be exterminated.
The voyeuristic filming style is a terrific point of view to bring this idea home. You know you’re being watched, but by who, and why? It’s a creepy feeling that anyone can relate to, but something marginalized communities endure in even the “safest” of scenarios. The very perception of safety is a myth yet they must continue upholding polite societal norms. The Retreat illuminates how asinine this expectation becomes when members of society loathe you for existing, yet the movie avoids being too heavy handed.
That the actions and values held by the extremists are believable in 2021 is a horrifying notion on it’s own. Of course they want to livestream human slaughter for the dark web-If we aren’t broadcasting our every move, do we even exist?
Even the gore and violence is portrayed cleverly: While the yokels do succeed in over-the-top kills on innocent victims, the audience does not witness the kills directly. Despite moments that would’ve lent themselves to sexual violence in countless other films, there is no sexual assault portrayed in The Retreat. Not only was I thankful for this, it’s another clever way the movie keeps the power and humanity in the innocent victims while allowing the villains to be monstrous.
Renee and Valerie are faced with a choice: Band together, trusting in each other during personal turbulence, and fight, or conform to polite society and allow themselves to be slaughtered for entertainment. You can probably tell from the movie poster which way it goes, but it is still a fun 90 minutes spent on the ride.
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