Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“When I first saw your dick pic on Grindr, I never thought it would lead us here.” So says one of the opening victims of the surprisingly effective, politically charged horror thriller, The Retreat. If it’s not apparent from that quote, The Retreat specifically targets members of the LGBT community as its unsuspecting victims. The way they fight back against their attackers kicks it up a notch. Part LGBT slasher, part You’re Next-style revenge romp, this film gave me everything I wanted and more. 

Renee (Tommie-Amber Prie) and Valerie (Sarah Allen) arrive at a gay bed-and-breakfast for a cute (but cheesy) wedding planning retreat, but their friends are nowhere to be found. The two go for a picnic in the woods to pass the time, and almost immediately begin to notice that someone is watching them. It escalates quickly when a masked maniac chases them through the woods. Valerie gets stuck in a bear trap, leaving Renee to devise a plan for their escape. Desperate for survival, the couple will stop at nothing to overcome their creepy captors.

The disturbing killers behind it all, revealed to be a group of militant psychopaths, are portrayed in a despicable one-note way. In the nicest of terms, I’d describe this group as homophobic assholes. There’s a whole extra layer to their torment only revealed as the plot unravels, and the bodies pile up. The violence is the perfect amount of bloody, and never rises to the grisly level of many of its slasher brethren. This doesn’t mean we don’t get a couple memorable kills. When one of the killers heckles our heroines with a “you won’t shoot me, you don’t have the guts,” The Retreat delivers a true ‘hold my beer’ moment that couples as a Scream reference.

This never pretends to be strictly about the violence; director Pat Mills and writer Alyson Richards instead choose to focus on the survival angle, and the thrills and chills of this hellish scenario. A lean 82-minute runtime trims any fat of exposition. The Retreat cuts straight to the action. It all culminates in an expertly-staged and supremely satisfying finale.

Where The Retreat gets major points from me is in the execution of the LGBT angle folded into the plot. This isn’t just thrown in for the sake of seeming woke or relevant, and actually provides backbone for literally everything that occurs within. The sole driving force for our killers lies in the sexual preferences of those who come to the bed-and-breakfast. The strength of Renee and Valerie as they’re forced to fight back is made ever propulsive thanks to their established relationship. The reinforcement of their love, made possible only by their disastrous situation, is so much fun to watch.

I can’t think of many other genre films with a lesbian couple at their center, and The Retreat allows us to follow them down a rabbit hole of chaos. As a gay man, the fear and suspense here really hit home. The movie has strong messages about voyeurism and homophobia. If you prefer your horror cerebral or artistic, you can steer clear. However, for the right brand of fanatics, The Retreat will provide a cozy stay in its blood-splattered hallways.

The Retreat invites you for a stay when it hits theaters, on demand, and digital platforms Friday, May 21st. 

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