Old friends Pete (Steve Bradley), Jake (Aaron Brooks), Kevin (Andrew Dunbar), and Dan (Shane Twerdun) are about to get together for their yearly guys weekend. It’s a chance for them to reconnect, as well as getting away from the problems of their everyday life. Jake is dealing with job loss that is putting stress on his marriage. Dan has been avoiding relationships by hooking up with waitresses at his work, but he’s gotten one of them pregnant and he’s not sure what to do. Kevin is pretty sure that his wife has been cheating on him, and Pete is still dealing with the break up of his last relationship, even though it’s been 3 years. Once the men reach the vast wilderness, one of them slowly starts to lose his grip on reality, threatening to take himself and the rest of his friends down a dangerous path.

Writer/director Andrew Moxham delivers a slowly paced, but unnerving thriller with White Raven. The film may not hide its secrets very well, and it’s rather obvious who the unstable character is going to be, but with strong performances and a very natural script, the end result is quite satisfying. The only real downfall is the slightly long opening as we’re introduced to each of the men and the problems that they’ll eventually be talking about and dealing with. The time spent here could have been better used by putting them men directly into the woods while we’re slowly introduced to the problems they’ve all left behind. This also may have given the film more time to gradually reveal the psychotic behaviour of the one man who will threaten everybody.

The performances from Brooks and Dunbar are solid, but it’s Twerdum and Bradley who deliver the strongest show. The chemistry doesn’t feel quite as strong as it could have been, but the strong script makes up for that. It may not feel like they’ve all been friends for years, but it certainly sounds like they have. Moxham certainly knows how to create a flowing script that never sounds like someone is reading their lines, and his direction is even better. He manages to create some great moments of tension even though we’re fully aware of who the dangerous person is. If there’s anything lacking in White Raven here, it’s that the film hits highs and lows repeatedly, instead of slowly building up in one smooth motion. The film always manages to pull you back in just as a situation may start to seem unreal. There’s solid reasons why the men just don’t take off back to civilization, although it does come close to silly at times.

The gorgeous landscape of Vancouver provides the perfect backdrop for the groups wilderness adventure. It’s lush as well as imposing, giving the daytime scenes a sense of claustrophobia even when the area may actually be more open. The thickness of the forest around them always seems to be creeping in and it’s a very different feeling for those of us closer to the east coast of Canada. It feels exotic and familiar at the same time. This brings up some of the uncertainties and fear that some viewers may have of the darkened forest, as well as adding a kind of alien feeling with the film being shot somewhere other than Northern Ontario.

It may take a bit to really find yourself absorbed into the story of these four men, but once they finally begin their hike into the woods, you’ll have a hard time turning away. Even though we’re fully aware of the person who will be the real threat of the film, White Raven manages to build great tension as we wait to see what will happen to all of the men. In fact, I’d actually say that knowing who is losing their sanity actually makes things worse for the viewer, as we know who the men should fear, and we’re forced to hold our breath and wait to see if something horrible is going to happen. If you’re a fan of films that take you into the forest and leave you there to deal with your fear, White Raven is one you should check out. You can find the film on iTunes right now.

White Raven Trailer