I’m going to be honest when I got sent an email advertising a new “lesbian slasher movie” I was immediately sold. It didn’t matter if the movie was good or bad, I wanted to see it. It combines two things I love, women who love women and slashers, what more could I want? But then I did watch The Retreat movie and luckily for me, the film wound up being incredibly fun, surprisingly brutal and overall, quite good.
Directed by Pat Mills and written by Alyson Richards, The Retreat centers on lesbian couple Renee (Tommie-Amber Pirie) and Valerie (Sarah Allen) who are on their way to spend a week in a remote cabin with friends for a “wedding planning retreat,” whatever that is. But when they arrive at the cabin, their friends are nowhere to be found. Soon the biggest problems facing the pair aren’t their relationship challenges, but a group of militant extremists hellbent on killing them.
When writing the film, Richards wanted to make a film that gave queer characters strong representation without resorting to some of the uglier trends in horror. Too often, queer characters are killed off within seconds of being introduced or revealed to be shallow, psychotic killers without many nuances to that depiction. We all know the “bury your gays” trope has long since plagued the television and film industry. Representation has improved, but we still have a long way to go.
The Retreat movie gives us characters to root for and some brutal kills
What makes The Retreat succeed is that Valerie and Renee feel like real characters, not stock token lesbians. They’re just normal people who also happen to be gay and get caught in a terrifying experience out in the woods.
Not only does the film give us characters to root for, but it also plays into those fears I think we all have of staying somewhere hosted by other people. Richards said she was inspired by a time when she and her wife stayed in an Airbnb and they never saw their hosts, yet felt like they were being watched.
It’s weird, isn’t it, that it’s totally normal now for people to rent out another person’s house and never meet the host face-to-face. You could be spending the night in a killer’s lair and not even realize it! The Retreat taps into those fears and mixes them with the regular horror queer people (and women) face on a daily basis.
Early on in the film, Renee and Valerie stop at a gas station and deal with two unsavory characters, each creepy in their own ways. The problem is, you just never know what kind of person someone is. Unfortunately, the killers don’t walk around wearing signs. There is always a sense of unease, especially nowadays and especially for women, that you’ll say the wrong thing to a stranger or reject the wrong guy’s advances and they’ll follow you home.
The Retreat explores all of these themes without becoming preachy. At its core, it’s a fun, brutal slasher flick with some surprising kills and devilish antics from the killers that would be right at home in The Strangers or even Saw.
The Retreat movie opens Friday, May 21 in select theaters and on VOD.