THE DEVIL’S WOODS

1 out of 10

Irish film production

Release Date: 24th October 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Anthony Wood

Cast: Stephen Cromwell, Caoimhe Cassidy, Danielle Keaney, Daniel Mahony

Writer: Anthony Wood and cast

Trailer: THE DEVIL’S WOODS

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Review by Matt Usher

Why do they do it? Film-makers, I mean. Why do they (well, some of them) make films in homage to other films they’ve seen which just end up being extremely pale failed imitations? This time DELIVERANCE is the object of adoration, and we know this because characters keep mentioning it, which would be fair enough if there were any similarities between the two films other than them both being about people going somewhere then getting attacked by dodgy locals. It’s fair (but also unnecessary) to say that DELIVERANCE is better than THE DEVIL’S WOODS. Then again, there aren’t many films worse. I blame BOTCHED, STITCHES and GRABBERS which alerted us to the fact that the Irish were making some quirky, clever, funny and unpredictable horror films. This does not join their ranks. It may be a little excessive of me to suggest that this is unspeakably poor, but, apart from a couple of very brief moments, this looks and feels like a very bad student production, made by some quite dumb students.

We begin with a young lady getting out of a car near what looks like a quite nice park. Off she pops along a pathway of doom (having paused to retrieve a mask from the car boot) and is set upon by a ruffian. Fortunately someone else is there to deal with the scoundrel, but, having vanquished him, the knight in shining armour turns out to be an attacker as well. What are the chances? Our doomed non-heroine screams, and is never seen again, unless she’s one of the mysterious cowled and masked figures at the end – to be honest by the end I’d forgotten about her (and it’s only a short film).

We then find a young couple in a non-descript room. They chat dully, and it subsequently turns out they actually have no bearing whatsoever on anything else at all. They are merely there to sell some drugs to one of the main characters. He arrives and more chat and drug-purchasing occurs. He goes home to chat to his girlfriend. Then they go round to their other friends, with whom they are going off to a possibly illegal music festival. If my description is exceedingly dull, I apologise, but honestly my writing is positively racy compared with how all this plays out on screen. After about fifteen minutes (in a 78 minute film) our heroes have finally got into the car and are heading off on their adventure. At this point the only thing worth noting is that one of our leading men looks a bit like a young Ross Kemp in a wig. I guess this preamble is meant to be a slow, steady build-up of gut-wrenching tension, but it’s equally possible that this material is just real footage of the cast going about their everyday lives that’s been edited in accidentally. Without anyone noticing.

After a brief altercation with a doomed bird, our heroes, having driven about half a mile, decide to stop for a drink and directions at the Creepy Pub of Evil Dangerous Suspicious Yokels. The pub is infested with inbred axe-murderers, so, having spent £20 to go to the toilet and buy some untouched drinks, our heroes leave. There is a good bit at this point where someone has a brief moment of ab-dabs while waiting in the car.

Eventually our dull quartet of slasher-bait arrive at a place which in no way resembles a suitable campsite. After some uninteresting shenanigans and bad sex they have a bit of a row then start playing pranks on each other. But in (bad) imitation of the boy who cried wolf, things eventually start to turn sinister. Our heroes still manage to have a row about infidelity EVEN THOUGH ONE OF THEIR NUMBER HAS JUST BEEN DRAGGED OFF BY A F***ING AXE-WIELDING MANIAC (albeit axeless). Then the cast get slaughtered in roughly reverse order of acting ability by figures who are either yokels from the pub, or the local aristocracy. The fact that it’s impossible to tell whether they’re yokels or aristocrats is (a) indicative of the film-makers’ belief that evil is evil and it doesn’t matter how you dress, (b) a sad indictment of the state of the aristocracy in economically straitened times, or (c) indicative that the film-makers don’t know what they’re doing.

Certainly, there are worse films operating at this level, and it’s not as bad as the sequel to ROBERT and nowhere near as atrocious as SILVERHIDE (a film about the government’s secret invisible werewolf breeding programme) (I’m not making that up). But, really, was it worth the effort of sending copies of this dross across the Irish Sea?

Truly the best I can say is that I’m profoundly grateful it isn’t a found-footage film. Even so, the director manages to spend a lot of time shoving the camera in the direction of the leading lady’s bottom. The cast appear to be acceptable amateurs. Well, I hope they are. If I ever find any of them have been anywhere near a drama school then there’ll be trouble. The Ross Kemp-alike and his buddy do quite decent banter-type blarney, and there’s decent enough screaming when necessary. But the plot is over-familiar, the film is shot like a home video, and I get the impression that they just wanted to get the thing made regardless of whether it was worth making. (It isn’t.) If there was any spark of originality or enthusiasm about the enterprise I’d happily point it out, but this is a pallid regurgitation of significantly better films. It’s as if the film-makers had been forced against their will to watch certain classic horrors and told ‘here’s a tenner, now go and make tribute to these’ and they went off, spent the cash, then cobbled this together at the last minute. If it is a labour of love by committed film fans then they couldn’t have disguised their enthusiasm more thoroughly; rarely has a film seemed more reluctant to exist.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

Errr….

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