After Brody, his girlfriend Kerry and her estranged cousin Leo go camping in the dense forest in the United Kingdom bizarre occurrences begin to unfold tearing at the very fabric of their questionable cohesion and sanity.
Directed by: Richard Parry
Starring: Scoot McNairy, Anna Skellern, Andrew Hawley
Arguably A Night In The Woods is a rip off of another blockbuster; low budget franchise many horror aficionados recall titled The Blair Witch Project. Shot mostly in first person persona, Brody (Scott McNairy) is a somewhat videographer enthusiast, insisting to document the majority of their wilderness adventure. Often to the disapproval of his faithful girlfriend, Kerry (Anna Skellern); it seems Brody has a secret agenda at hand. He questions the relationship between Kerry and estranged cousin Leo played by Andrew Hawkley. He questions the sincerity of Leo and moreover the actual relationship in itself.
For a first person perspective the footage is quite breath taking at times. We get a quite a few glimpses of the European country side including the breath taking world wonder Stonehenge. Making a brief pit stop in a local pub, the locals share legend and folklore with the travelers about Dartmoor Wistman’s Woods. According to the macabre tale a menacing presence scours the woods for sinners branding their foreheads with crosses before hanging them in the desolate brush. It’s harrowing and eerie, at its best setting up the backdrop of the tale in foreshadowing the true terror of what is about to unfold.
According to the narrative the footage recorded by Brody is found within the woods, the last trace of any of the three campers. For documentary style cinematography it’s alarmingly easy to watch and not at all nauseating or vertigo inducing like many other single point of view productions such as The Blair Witch Project and countless others.
The acting is definitely notable as we buy into the trials and tribulations of Brody and Kerry’s relationship. We like and even empathize with them as individuals and as a couple. Kerry is working through some issues of grievance with her deceased father. Into the second and third acts of the production the tension is heightened considerably as we begin to detect something is awry in the integrity of their loyalty and devotion.
It isn’t difficult to accept the dialogue as realistic while the characters ham it up, pour out obscenities and profanity like its water and share dark secrets with one another. When the tension is heightened and we begin to question just what exactly each character is to one another is where the real insanity begins. We’re locked and loaded into what happens next and that’s what makes this a truly effective production.
The setting within itself creates a most effective sense of dread and doom. Several hours away from home or any captivity the bona fide terror ignites while each character clambers for survival dangling upon the frayed ends of their very sanity.
Although the plot begins a little on the slow side, I find its necessary here to create enough conflict to genuinely buy into the story. At times our values shift from routing for the betrayed Brody to the double crossed Kerry to the cheated Leo. It’s brilliant character development that is reminiscent of reality. As the old saying goes some things are stranger than fiction.
The minor quirks or hiccups in the production appear to be follies at first glance but in actuality enhance the over all presentation of the picture. At times the camera shots become frozen and distorted as does the audio. It grates on our nerves and if you’re like me, initially you get the impression there is something wrong with the actual film you’re watching. It’s apparently deliberate to contribute to an overall rustic defect of the camera work in itself. It’s these subtleties that are indication the film makers know precisely what they’re doing and the pay off is extraordinary.
It’s not necessarily for everyone but definitely worth a look for fans of reality based productions or creepy deep woods terror.
-Three out of five tombstones
A Night in the Woods (2011)