Dennis Hinshaw has it all - a beautiful wife, a great kid and a second baby on the way, and a solid career as a teacher - until his entire life is taken away by a drunk driver, Grant Marlowe. Two years later, Marlowe is a recovering alcoholic intent on saving what's left of his own family by gathering them together at their mountain retreat to celebrate Christmas. Hinshaw, however, has other plans, plans he has been constructing for two years, and now is the time for revenge.
Heading into Desolation, I wasn't quite sure what to expect beyond a home invader horror romp but Kristopher Rufty managed to exceed my expectations. His opening chapter, in which we see the tragic aftermath of an automobile crash from Hinshaw's point of view, was truly gut-wrenching and unsettling. Enough so that I honestly thought that I would be rooting for Hinshaw as he exacted vengeance.
Right from the get-go, I wanted to hate Grant Marlowe, and for a while there I did. But that's kind of the neat trick Rufty pulls here in that I wanted, and to a degree expected, things to go one way and the author pulled me off into a different direction, turning the tables on me pretty solidly.
Each of these men are, in their own distinct ways, walking wounded in the aftermath of a single, fatal collision. Their lives have careened off in different directions like pinballs hitting a paddle, but both continue to live in the shadows of that fateful night. Hinshaw is rather clearly the villain, and although his initial motivations may be far too understandable, his actions are supremely abhorrent. Marlowe, meanwhile, turned out to be a far more tragic figure than I had initially suspected. Yeah, he's a touch too full of himself and at times way more entitled than he deserves to be, but the night Hinshaw has planned for him goes well beyond the pale and into full-on psychopathy.
Ultimately, I wish Rufty would have juggled expectations for these characters a little bit more before settling on a fairly black-and-white depiction of good versus evil, but his characterizations here are admirable. Both men are equally relateable (well, to a certain degree anyway...), with their flaws shining through nicely, even before all the blood starts a-spillin'. In terms of gore, there's a few wince-inducing sequences and some hair-raising scenarios that get extra-chunky as the story wears on to a supremely bloody finish. I doubt many horror hounds will be disappointed by this one.