We open in the snowy mountains where we meet the survivors of a plane crash. Two men feast on the remains of their late pilot, while a third watches on condemningly. This trio then muster their collective energy and get to their feet, ploughing through the wintry terrain and harsh, cold elements in a bid to find their way out of the wilderness. As they reach the opening to a pine forest, the men stop in their tracks. The two who fed on their deceased comrade are clearly shaken by what they see before them. The third, however, is baffled: he sees nothing. He does, however, bear witness to one of his fellow travellers being picked up and gorily torn apart by some invisible entity.

Then we switch to a psychiatric hospital bedroom. We're now in the UK, and troubled teenager Nat (Megan Purvis) lies in the bed, all pasty-faced and with medical gauze wrapped around each wrist. It happens to be her birthday, and boyfriend Ethan (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni) has come to visit - with an eye to breaking her out for the weekend so they can party appropriately.

Having successfully engineered her escape, Ethan drives Nat through some sumptuous, sun-kissed countryside hills and to a remote campsite destination where a group of her friends have erected a tent in preparation of their upcoming camping weekend.

To this end, we meet the vain and lazy Pippa (Hannah Louise Howell), cool dude Teddy (Samuel Freeman), introvert Mike (Michael Haynes), New-age hipster Cam (Martin Thomas), and negative nerd Frances (Kim Spearman). Everyone seems affable enough, although there's clearly some underlying tension between Nat and her brother Teddy.

As the troupe settle in to their dwellings, Ethan fills in the legal forms and treks to the site owner's home to hand them in. It's here that he meets Blackwood (David Patrick Stucky), a somewhat grizzled and odd fellow who nonetheless donates a plethora of succulent-looking homemade burgers to his guests.

Cam does the honours at the evening's barbecue, and all partake in eating the delicious burgers aside from resolute vegan Mike. All seems to be going well as darkness descends and the group gathers around the camp fire.

But then Blackwood reappears, and this time he's not being so generous. Gun in hand, he orders the group to tie each other up. He then explains that "there's something in these woods ... a monster ...", going on to expand that "this monster hunts down cannibals and eats them alive". So, it turns out that Blackwood escaped being devoured by this beast in the film's opening scene by making a deal with it whereby he'd provide it with a regular supply of cannibals to feast upon. All he needed to do was kill the odd hiker, and then feed their minced innards to unwitting campers in the form of burgers ...

Mike, unfortunately, must be shot dead for refusing to eat meat.

Ah, bugger.

Blackwood then douses himself in blood and drives the terrified friends up into the hills in his van where he intends to feed them as a sacrifice to this devilish beast. En route, the group manage to untie themselves and prepare for the worst. Once the van stops, they exit the vehicle only to discover Blackwood has disappeared ... and taken its keys with him. Stranded in the woods at night, this hapless party must engage a strategy if they're going to survive. Easier said than done, especially when one of them immediately panics and runs through the trees hoping to catch up with Blackwood ... but falls foul of something far more deadly instead.

As for the remaining few ... who will survive, and what will be left of them?

THE YOUNG CANNIBALS took me by surprise. It's a low-budget British film from feature debut writer-directors Kris Carr and Sam Fowler. The title didn't inspire much in the way of hope, I'll be honest, but my low expectations were duly rewarded by a film with plenty to offer.

For some reason - the trailer, synopsis, whatever - I suppose I anticipated a rather lame comedy. While there are humorous exchanges between the group of friends, the film is overall unexpectedly dark in tone. Satisfyingly so. It's also populated by well-rounded, likeable characters and an added interesting backdrop concerning the familial tensions between Nat and Teddy. The script is clever enough to build on character traits and relationships, while paring down the use of coarse language so that it has more effect when it does feature.

The film is also beautifully shot by cinematographer Liam Hejsak. I mean, he has the amazing privilege of working with the stunning landscapes of Snowdonia National Park in Wales and, briefly, the French Alps, but how he captures and frames them is truly impressive. This really does become a key feature of the film. It's aided nicely by Gabe Castro's keenly observed 80s-style synthesiser score which at its best evokes the work of John Carpenter.

THE YOUNG CANNIBALS is also paced rather expertly. It wastes no time getting into the action, opening to a scene of men gnawing down on bloodied pieces of flesh. The entire snowbound opening set-piece is superficially reminiscent of the introductory scene from CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL, albeit much darker in tenor. From there onwards, proceedings move forward at an agreeable tempo, the storyline finding its feet early and remaining happily free from flabby exposition while affording the underlying intrigue of initially unspoken drama existing between central characters.

A young cast acquits itself admirably. All performers are on point, lending the film a central warmth which is difficult not to like. And I did enjoy the fact that, earlier moments of mirth aside, this is a horror film that takes itself seriously. Oh, and the decision to leave the reveal of the monster until later into proceedings was a wise one (though, it's quite a decent practical creature to be fair - I just enjoyed the filmmakers' old-school approach to restraint in that regard).

So, THE YOUNG CANNIBALS manages to successfully mesh sub-genres such as body-count, survivalist and creature feature into one while retaining a vital human element. It's not a classic and will no doubt sadly be overlooked but it does show enormous potential from everyone concerned. Personally, I'm excited to see what this collective could achieve going forward.

THE YOUNG CANNIBALS comes to us courtesy of production companies Devilworks and Bad Taste Pictures. It's currently streaming for free on Amazon Prime, where it's being screened uncut at 95 minutes and 32 seconds in length.

The film is presented in 1080p HD and in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It looks amazing, very sharp and vivid, with impressive depth and satisfyingly deep, stable blacks. English stereo audio is equally notable, very reliable indeed. Though it may be worth noting that there's no subtitles option.

Definitely worth a look.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Devilworks and Bad Taste Pictures