A NIGHT IN THE WOODS

7 out of 10

Release Date: 7th September 2012

Director: Richard Parry

Cast: Anna Skellern, Scoot McNairy and Andrew Hawley

Devised: Richard Parry & Cast

Trailer: A NIGHT IN THE WOODS

imagesOK, this is way better than Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows.  It is pretty much the sequel any of us would have liked to see.  So slavish to The Blair Witch Project is this Dartmoor set horror, I’m surprised the makers didn’t try to shoe horn it in as a third part in the cycle.  Think The Fast & The Furious series where one episode is set in LA, the next is in Tokyo etc.  This could be Blair Witch UK.  A Night In The Woods is a competent scare fest with added back story and a bit of room for ambiguity.  Where as in The Blair Witch Project the characters kind of knew each other prior to the expedition, the trio on offer here know each other all too well.  They even have some secrets which come to bear before events go west.

Brody (SCOOT MCNAIRY – MONSTERS) and Kerry (ANNA SKELLERN – W/E) have been dating for six months and now live together.  They decide to go on a camping trip in Wistman Woods on Dartmoor.  A curious decision to invite Kerry’s cousin Leo (ANDREW HAWLEY – GINGER AND ROSA) along with them antagonises the jealous Brody. Leo and Kerry openly flirt and fool around provoking Brody to confront the pair.  After an evening in a pub torn straight from American Werewolf In London, locals tell of a local legend of The Huntsman who kills sinners who get caught out on the moors.  So far so crusty.  Alcohol obviously heightens their emotions and the trio descend into weird and wild accusations backed up a weird homemade video collection on Brody’s laptop.   Brody’s ever present camera causing and increasing levels of agro as the trip goes on but it also doubles as an obvious witness to the ever outlandish events that begin to unfold.

Dartmoor is exceptionally creepy with it’s desolate plains and rocky outcrops. It is obviously cut off and the one of the nearest regions we have resembling a wilderness in the UK.  Throw in a warring trio of idiots and a terrifying local legend, only the most cynical won’t get a few chills.  This aside, its one of the best found footage horror movies since The Blair Witch Project kicked off the sub-genre.  It offers some mildly deranged characters and leaves them to an ambiguous fate.  It’s largely improvised by the cast based on workshops ran by the director and this method serves the story well, injecting extra fear and urgency. There are a lot of tired found-footage/faux-documentaries movies like Apollo 18, Diary Of The Dead, Pimp, Big Fat Gypsy Gansgter, End Of Watch and the Rec sequels, so if you’re a fan then I’m happy to report that this stands out from the pack.  Two of the cast are familiar faces, with the American Scoot McNairy soon to be seen in Brad Pitt starred Killing Me Softly.  Hopefully, he’s got a few more independent movies coming along before he disappears into the Hollywood sausage machine. He’s one to watch.  Australian actress Anna Skellern is equally good and her British accent is perfect.  Australian actors are generally good at accents anyway. But still.  The third wheel Andrew Hawley is an unknown to me but he brings creepy ambiguity and confusion to the table and does raise important questions. A Night In The Woods may even go as meta as to hint that Brody may be inspired by said sub-genre, either way it works better when you worry whether there really is something out there in those dark, dark woods?

7 out of 10 – Utterly derivative of The Blair Witch Project. But this offers a good character dynamic as well as great performances.  If you like this sub-genre it delivers and is a very competent example of such.  So whilst it’s totally unoriginal at least there’s chills and scares to be had.  Think of it as Blair Witch 3 and you’re onto a safe bet.

READ JOE PESCI II’s counter review below!!!! 

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

  • Anna Skellern: Bloodmoon, The Interceptor (TV), Gambit, W/E7Lives, The Descent 2,
  • Scoot McNairy: Batman vs Superman, War Machine, Black Sea, Gone Girl, The Rover, Frank, Non-Stop, 12 Years a Slave, Promised Land, Argo, Killing Them Softly,  Monsters, In Search Of a Midnight Kiss,Mr Fix-It, Herbie – Fully Loaded
  • Andrew Hawley: Life Just Is, Ginger and Rosa
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One thought on “A NIGHT IN THE WOODS

  1. REVIEW BY JOE PESCI II / MATT USHER… Great counter review and quite controversial because he’s no fan of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. A film that clearly influenced A NIGHT IN THE WOODS.

    7.5 out of 10

    A Night in the Woods.

    I guess when writer/director Richard Parry was a nipper he perhaps saw Blair Witch Project and thought ‘I could do better than that’. And so he has. Mind you, let’s get things straight here: I didn’t think much of Blair Witch so we’re starting (as far as I’m concerned) from a low base. Having said that, this is a very effective remake/homage/reboot/copy/tribute movie. It’s still basically three people standing around in the middle of nowhere shouting at each other whilst being watched by (a) their own rather complicated series of cameras (OK there’s two) and (b) some sort of killer.

    I suppose what makes this version more engaging is the weird love triangle which is the initial emphasis of the film. Creepy American Brody (Scoot McNairy) and girlfriend Kerry (Anna Skellern) decide to go off to the woods (something happened to Brody in the very same woods a decade earlier and now he’s back for more; nutter) in Dartmoor. For some reason they take Kerry’s alleged cousin Leo (Andrew Hawley) along with them. Not sure why. Nor are they really. (I’ve checked now: the loving couple are Brody and Kerry and he really is very weird.)

    There are a few local yokels early on (I liked them – I shouldn’t have but I did) but beyond that this is a three-hander (plus unseen assailant, assuming unseen assailant isn’t one of our protagonists). As such the film’s appeal hinges largely on what you think of these three. They’re all very irritating really but the actors are all watchable and believable and you really want to hit Mcnairy and smash Hawley’s guitar over his head. I must’ve just liked this film because of Anna Skellern being in distress – she does distress very well, and she has a lot of distress to put up with – psychotic control-freak boyfriend, weird ‘cousin’, unseen invisible killer/amateur movie maker, that sort of thing.

    Tension and jealousy happen. Particularly when we find out about Leo’s odd behaviour (breaking and entering). And Brody’s even odder project (his film isn’t as innocent as it may seem and he does seem to be one of those really pretentious and creepy film-makers, and he films stuff in black and white sometimes). And then there are some unanswered questions, one of which I will raise ‘cos it doesn’t give too much away. Just why does Kerry bring Leo along? Particularly when it turns out that he’s (a) not a cousin and (b) the chap Kerry lost her virginity to a decade earlier.

    But these domestics are as nothing compared to whatever’s out there trying to drive them mad and kill them in the second half of the film. As with its progenitor we see nothing but the effects that the evil force has on our tiresome trio. The use of sound, or the lack of it, is perhaps the most successful part of the film. Sound is the source of much of the disquiet, doom, and distress once things get disquieting, doomy and distressing. And silence is largely the other source. And the mysterious power causing it all is the other source of course but that’s another story, possibly for Another Night in the Woods. Once the trio get separated and stop shouting at each other there is virtually no dialogue in the film, and understandably everyone’s trying to be quiet, but the sudden eruptions of violent noise give the film its fright value. (Though not any more now I’ve gone on about it.)

    As already mentioned, this is a film where people shout a lot at each other. This is one of the perils of improvisation. I do kind of wish Mr Parry had gone away and polished the script a bit more. Here are a couple of reasons why:

    The end of Scoot’s housebreaking soliloquy: You motherf****r. You c*cks-ck*r m_____fucker. What the fuck? What the f_%*?

    And a scene where Leo and Anna have a disagreement:

    Do you think I can’t see what you’re doing?
    F!!! you.
    It’s so obvious Kerry.
    $@!? you.
    I’m just saying it out like it is Kerry.
    How f-*-ing dare you?
    Come here.
    How fu©king dare you. Do you know what just #uck off.

    (I still haven’t checked the expletive policy of this site but I’m sure one of those will be right.) The English language desperately needs some new swear words. Despite our heroes’ poor vocabulary the film does somehow work. Or maybe I’m just scared of deepest Devon? And why do British film-makers want to put us off holidaying in our green and pleasant land? (See Sightseers for further vacation-based mayhem.)

    I knew that it was working for me though when I realised I just wanted day to dawn and for everyone to be all right. (Oh what a twist if they’d all got killed after sun up! Not that I’m saying they die in the dark, though the titles at the start pretty much say that and the name of the film’s a bit of a giveaway.) But the night is gruelling (and the film feels a lot longer that 79 minutes in a good way) and it is at times genuinely unsettling even when you know what’s coming (someone had to pick that camera up at some point).

    The found-footage idea has apparently been done to death in recent years but here it does at least have a part to play in the film itself. Although I’m not one hundred per cent sure that every shot is consistent the filming itself is part of the film’s plot (though I thoroughly disapprove of the obscene lyrics in the rewrite of The Lion Sleeps Tonight with regards to the camera and Brody’s insistent use of it). And you could certainly argue with the editing which is at times a bit flashy as if someone was manipulating the found footage for effect, though this does make you wonder just who has put the footage together.

    So, should you spend A Night in the Woods? Yes, if you don’t mind it seeming like a shot-for-shot remake of an inferior original. (Mind you they don’t get lost; in fact they seem to find it quite easy to get back to base even in the pitch black, so there are differences!) Although utterly lacking in originality it just kind of makes better use of the raw materials of the other film. Ultimately it’s more of a calling card than anything: the director clearly knows what he’s up to, as a writer he has some way to go. The actors are all good without being exceptional. But does it have that essential thing with proper horror, does it make you worry? Check the doors are locked once more? Miss a heartbeat at the unexpected sound of rain on my window a moment ago? Yes, it does. A qualified vote of confidence then. (That means it scared me a little bit more than I’ll ever admit. Oh.)

    7.5 out of 10 – Joe Pesci II

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