Lead Me Astray
Jace Pickard, Alannah Robertson, Tim Page, Tom Danger
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…an atmospheric and very promising debut.
Alexis Willard (Jace Pickard) has had a troubled childhood. After watching his parents murdered on a camping trip, he was raised by his sadistic abductor in the wilderness where he was trained to hunt not only game, but humans too. Eventually he managed to escape, stabbing his captor in the leg, and was rehabilitated into society over a course of years by the benevolent Dr Gene (Tim Page.) Now Alexis is studying veterinary science, and he has a girlfriend too, Lacey (Alannah Robertson). Things seem to be on the up and up until Alexis’ past comes back to haunt him, putting both Lacey and himself in perilous danger.
Australian Tom Danger’s debut feature is an interesting hybrid of The Jungle Book and Samuel Fuller’s White Dog. One of its strongest points is that its premise twist on the boy-raised-in-the-wild story trope feels genuinely novel. A sense of unpredictability prompts the characters and this lends itself to the quality of suspense that propels the film. Furthermore, what works is that Danger grounds his characters with a sense of realism. Occasionally, the villains can be somewhat arch, but the lead characters at least rarely fall into pure caricature. They are real enough to care about, and the psychological conflicts that affect Alexis present a fascinating quandary.
Lead Me Astray’s weakest point is that the narrative sometimes becomes convoluted by a series of sub-villains whose actions seem slightly arbitrary. The revealed motivation of the principal villain when eventually broached is unfortunately routine, having as it does none of the novelty of the premise that preceded it; although the film does recover by means of its final twist.
Lead Me Astray is an atmospheric and very promising debut. That its director was also the cinematographer, writer, editor, producer, and an actor in the film is ridiculously impressive.