The Woods is a supernatural Horror movie that seems to have a lot going for it: A cast of uniformed schoolgirls featuring Agnes Bruckner (The Pact, Kill Theory), a supporting role played by Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead’s Ash), and helming the entire project is director Lucky McKee (May, The Woman, Jug Face).
Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: In 1965, after provoking a fire in a forest, the rebel teenager Heather Fasulo is sent to the boarding school Falburn Academy in the middle of the woods by her estranged mother Alice Fasulo and her neglected father Joe Fasulo. The dean Ms. Traverse accepts Heather in spite of the bad financial condition of her father. The displaced Heather becomes close friend of he weird Marcy Turner, while they are maltreated by the abusive mate Samantha Wise. During the nights, Heather has nightmares and listens to voices from the woods, and along the days she believes that the school is a coven of witches. When some students, including Marcy, simply vanish, Heather believes she will be the next one.
The presentation and production of The Woods are both excellent. It looks and feels like the mid 1960’s. Falburn Academy is an impressive and morose building, the perfect setting for a film that deals with themes of alienation and isolation. The titular woods are thick and lush; not daunting by daylight necessarily, but what forest isn’t potentially terrifying at night? The audioscape in The Woods is as important as the visual imagery; sinister whispering voices constantly torment from the periphery.
Bruckner is pretty damn good as main character Heather Fasulo, completely successful at evoking those first-day-at-a-new-school jitters before settling into her established role as an outsider. She aptly conveys strength (in the face of bullies and Academy staff) as well as adolescent weakness (begging her parents to let her come home). When supernatural happenings descend, Bruckner is convincingly terrified without sliding into the stereotypical victim persona.
And of course Bruce Campbell is awesome as Heather’s dad, Joe Fasulo. While his character is, at first, exceedingly ineffectual, his role becomes more significant in the film’s Final Act. He also adds just a sprinkle of comic relief to what is otherwise a very tense movie. With Campbell, I wondered if the filmmakers were attempting to make an Evil Dead connection. Besides featuring the star of that franchise in a supporting role, the wood in The Woods are very similar to those in Evil Dead. Both settings teem with invisible spirits of questionable intent—and both come to life in a terrifying fashion. In both films, branches and vines wrap and nearly mummify hapless victims. If these similarities don’t intentionally harken the vibe of Evil Dead, then the filmmakers could probably be accused of borrowing in excess.
While it contains quite a few qualities important to a successful Horror movie, The Woods becomes unnecessarily muddled by a complex backstory and ultimately suffers from poor execution. It’s not boring, but it’s not super compelling either. The supernatural happenings are related to a horrific past event, but the connection to the current staff and student body is hardly straightforward. And it’s never made clear (at least not in my mind) whether the current activity has to do with dead spirits, a coven of witches, or some inherent evil power within the woods. Heather’s role in the film is opaque as well; we know little about her connection to Falburn and, while we are informed that she is “gifted” we have no clue as to the source or extent of her strange abilities. While the conclusion is filled with action and movement, the film’s ending is flat and forgettable.
Fans of Lucky McKee will probably consider The Woods a mediocre but acceptable representation of his filmography. This movie may find an audience among fans of girl-centric Horror like Jennifer’s Body or The Craft, but gore-hounds and hard-core aficionados will likely be disappointed.
2.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Directed by||Lucky McKee|
|Produced by||Bryan Furst,
Elliot Lewis Rosenblatt
|Written by||David Ross|
|Music by||John Frizzell
Jaye Barnes Luckett(uncredited)
|Editing by||Dan Lebental,
SLS Video Productions
|Distributed by||United Artists,