DVD REVIEW: RAVEN’S CABIN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: LOREN JOHNSON / SCREENPLAY: KATRINA RODRIGUEZ / STARRING: ANDREA BURDETT, LUKE LEDGER, JOHN MCPHERSON, PIA PRENDIVILLE, MAURICIO MERINO JR, NEAL HUXLEY, JAG PANNU / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Redback is a “youth behaviour modification” camp operated deep in the woods, where wayward young adults are set back on the straight and narrow by a regime of humiliation, degradation and abuse both psychological and physical. Among a new batch of inmates grabbed off the street by some thuggish bounty hunters is the tormented psychic Andrea (Burdett), who begins seeing an apparition of a girl who died at the camp as a victim of an apparent suicide.
Raven’s Cabin is driven by three parallel plotlines: the survival of a regime of abuse by sadistic councillors suffered by those trapped there; a police investigation into ill treatment allegations made by a former inmate of the camp; and a supernatural aspect courtesy of Andrea’s visitations from the dead girl’s spectre. While there’s nothing especially wrong with the ideas presented, the film seems unsure of what kind of story it’s trying to tell. While its components are all part of the same narrative, they never properly mesh together into a coherent whole. Each one would be sufficient as an individual plot by itself, and as a result the constant juggling between each of them is to the detriment of them all.
Exactly how such a place managed to come into existence is not explained, nor is any reasoning given for how it has managed to continue operating for so long and why this appears to be the first time anyone has made a complaint about their treatment there. Yes, the setting was created purely for the needs of the plot, but it really shouldn’t feel like that within the context of the story. Harris (McPherson), the leader of the sadistic camp guards, does at one point mention having previously been a failed school councillor, but it’s quite a leap from that to his cruel behaviour on-screen.
Although much time is spent on the assorted inmates, there are a few too many to allow each of them much individual personality; like the narrative, the multiple interactions of related yet disparate elements leaves all of them feeling like secondary considerations. Andrea is easily the most interesting of the bunch, a girl cursed with visions of death and prophecy she neither wants nor can control. She states exactly what a crappy gift it is, being able to hear the tortured wailings of restless spirits and experience people’s future suffering without being able to do much about either.
A subtle and low-key piece of Australian filmmaking (if you’re looking for a stopgap before Wolf Creek 2 comes out, you’re going to be sorely disappointed), Raven’s Cabin is a decent achievement given its limited resources, but its unfocused structure prevents you from truly engaging with it.