An expectant father travels to the Scottish Highlands with an old friend for a weekend of hunting, but their trip quickly takes a dark turn. Starring Jack Lowden and Martin McCann, CALIBRE is one of the most intense thrillers I’ve seen in recent years. A completely unexpected, twisted film that builds that tension in terrifying fashion, leaving you mentally drained and conflicted by the end.
With his first child on the way, Vaughn (Lowden) decides to take a weekend trip with his childhood schoolmate, Marcus (McCann). The two drive from the city to the remote Scottish Highlands for a weekend of “stalking”. Marcus, an avid hunter, is keen to teach Vaughn how to do so. Ahead of their hunting adventure, the two men pop into the local pub and meet some townspeople, including community leader Logan (Tony Curran) and locals Kara and Iona. After Marcus and Kara leave together for the evening, Vaughn and Iona continue to drink as he opens up about his fears of becoming a father.
The next morning, a hungover Vaughn is awoken by an eager Marcus, as they are already running behind in their planned adventures. Traveling deep into the dense, quiet woods, the two men stumble upon a deer, with Marcus encouraging Vaughn as he sets up to take his first shot. As he builds up courage and slowly pulls the trigger, something unexpected leaves the two men shell-shocked and fighting for their futures.
Calibre has been sitting in Netflix’s catalog since the thriller debuted at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2018. While I’m a little late to the party on this one, I went in only knowing that the thriller took place against the backdrop of the beautiful Scottish Highlands. What ends up transpiring, takes the peaceful mountains from a magical setting, to a landscape of horrors.
The film is encased in dread from almost the beginning, as the two face a tense introduction to several members of the town; that will later spell more trouble for the outsiders. With the combined shock of their actions, as well as that distrust from locals, the film keeps you engrossed as you struggle with empathy and fear for the two. It’s a rare feat for a film to leave you so traumatized with something that sticks with you for hours – even days – later.
I’ve always enjoyed films that balance a contrasting setting and story, the use of an idyllic, dream-like backdrop to house unsuspecting terror. Another more recent British film that I found also succeeds at this, is horror gem THE RITUAL; which I highly recommend. There is something just so jarring to see an otherwise calm place become an intimidating character in itself.
It’s hard to dive too deep into this story, without giving away the catalyst for what eventually happens. What you can expect is a less-than-relaxing experience from a film that beautifully explores some deep, dark themes, such as human flaws, pact mentality to some degree, guilt and trauma.
CALIBRE is available on Netflix