(director/writer: Roxanne Benjamin; cinematographer: Hanna Getz; editors: Matt Blundell, Courtney Marcilliat; music: The Gifted; cast: Miranda Bailey (Sandy), Emily Althaus (Maya), Brodie Reed (Craig), Karina Fontes (Wendy), Casey Adams (Red), Matt Peters (Kevin), John Getz (Sheriff), Susan Burke (Coroner), Martin Spanjers (Davey); Runtime: 87;  MPAA Rating: R; producer: Christopher Alender; Magnolia Pictures; 2019)

“Fontes is convincing and likable as the ditzy lost park ranger and that was a good enough reason for me to enjoy it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In her debut feature, Roxanne Benjamin, a collaborator on the short films “Southbound” (2015) and “XX” (2017), directs this tense but comical survival thriller set in a state park.

The scatterbrain Wendy (Karina Fontes), not an outdoors type, gets a job nevertheless as a part-time summer employee at the fictional Brighton Rock State Park (in reality it’s filmed at Idyllwild, California). One day she helps out her workplace best friend, Maya (Emily Althaus), by giving up her soft indoor post at the visitor center to give her friend a chance to flirt with a co-worker stationed there, while she takes on Maya’s more difficult task of posting fliers for hikers and policing the grounds along a hiking trail (incidentally a trail that she’s not qualified to hike).

Wendy gets lost when misplacing her map while obliviously walking the trail with her headphones on and after taking several wrong turns ends up atop a ridge in the woods several miles away from where she should be. There she finds a dead body. She sends a photo of the area to Maya, who doesn’t recognize the location and tells her to stay there overnight and that help from the park rangers will arrive in the morning. She’s told to also secure the area as a crime scene.

Wendy, who is given no back story, spends a scary night alone in the wooded area, as she hears animal sounds, panics and imagines seeing other scary things in the woods, but can’t communicate with her home base because the battery dies on her cellphone.

The story is somewhat plausible, that is if you accept Benjamin’s claim that qualified rangers wouldn’t go out at night to rescue her (I found that hard to swallow). In any case, Fontes is convincing and likable as the ditzy lost park ranger and that was a good enough reason for me to enjoy it.

REVIEWED ON 2/17/2020  GRADE: B-