The Last Great Wilderness (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This low budget, independent Brit-flick is a genuinely odd film.

Two men meet at a highway rest stop. One man has a car, the other needs a ride. The garrulous, persuasive would-be hitchhiker is unable to persuade the dour driver to give him a lift, but fate intervenes. The driver is assaulted in the parking lot by a stranger, and the hitchhiker saves him, thrashing the stranger thoroughly in the process. Feeling obligated, but still guarded and suspicious, the driver invites his rescuer along as a passenger, finally dropping him off at an airport. Things go badly for the passenger at the airport, however. He has to flee from some armed thugs on foot, and the driver ends up saving his life. The two men, having now saved each other's lives, begin to bond.

It turns out that each of them is the thing the other despises most. The driver finally reveals that he is on his way to the Isle of Skye to burn down the house of his unfaithful wife and her new lover. The passenger is a man who specializes in providing sexual satisfaction to unsatisfied married women. The two men realize that under slightly different circumstances they would be trying to kill one another instead of saving each other's lives.

That was a fairly promising start for a movie. Unfortunately, that movie never appeared. The Last Great Wilderness is a completely different movie. The two men ride along together until their car breaks down in some desolate section of Scotland, where they are forced to take refuge at a tiny countryside inn. Not long after they arrive, it becomes apparent that the people who live and work in the inn are harboring great secrets that they must shelter from the outside world. Our two protagonists spot the locals engaged in behavior which they can only interpret as cult rituals of some kind. What have they gotten themselves into?

That also was a fairly promising premise for a movie. Are the locals engaged in some creepy pagan rites, ala The Wicker Man? Are the harboring some awful, murderous secret, ala The Lottery?

That movie never appeared either.

"The Last Great Wilderness" of the title is not the forgotten Scottish countryside, but the human heart, and this movie finally emerged not as either of the films it promised to be, but as a completely different movie about unorthodox psychological therapy. There was one scene in which it delivered upon the horror/slasher movie promise it seemed to be making about halfway into the film, but in general it emerged as ... well ... just a very eccentric and personal film far from the mainstream. In the end of the film, the focus of the script returned to the very first idea it introduced - the driver intent on killing his wife and her lover  - and brought that back full circle until the driver found a measure of peace.

And running through the entire film is a sense of very, very dark comedy, if you can believe it.

As I said, it's an odd movie, and you'll probably never figure out where it is going at any time ...

 ... which is good in a way.



  • Alastair Mackenzie does full frontal and rear nudity.
  • Jonathan Phillips does full frontal nudity, and is partially erect.
  • Victoria Smurfit is seen topless, and a brief glance of her pubic area is seen in a dark sex scene.

That's what independent film is all about, I suppose - airing new concepts and indulging in personal experiments.

Exceptionally quirky films always produce mixed responses, and this case was no exception. The British reviewers called it anything from a mini-masterpiece to a woeful waste of time. The Daily Telegraph liked it, but The Mail savaged it, and the Observer called it ... "[a] risible Scottish fiasco, an addled cross between two cult movies, also set in the wilder parts of Britain - The Wicker Man and Polanski's Cul-de-Sac"

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic

  • it was shot on digital video, so the picture quality is mediocre. I'm not sure how much of that mediocrity be attributed to the transfer.

The Observer's comments were fairly accurate, although I believe their evaluation was too harsh. At first, the film seemed to be a cross between The Blair Witch Project (digital hand-held look, sense of undefined mystery in the remote countryside) and The Wicker Man (strange, possibly murderous pagan behavior from seemingly benign sources), but when all was said and done, The Last Great Wilderness just meandered off in its own quirky directions, again and again. I didn't much enjoy the film, but I look forward to much better movies from the two brothers who wrote, directed and starred. They have talent, and they did a lot here with a micro budget.

The Critics Vote ...

  • British consensus: There was no consensus, but the average score was two stars out of four, ranging from a cruel pan by the Mail to a fairly enthusiastic endorsement from the Telegraph. Mail 0/10, Telegraph 8/10,Guardian 6/10, Times 6/10, Sun 4/10, Express 6/10, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • The budget was about a million dollars. It was not released in the United States. UK box office numbers are not available.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. As odd an unappealing as it is, this film demonstrates that the writer/director team (two brothers, one of whom also starred in the film) has talent. They may make some very good films someday, although this is not an especially good one.

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