If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go
down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Well, actually, you’re not. Probably the last thing you’ll be is
surprised. In fact, the biggest
surprise about A Night In The Woods
is that the makers thought there was still mileage in yet another film that
takes the tired old ‘found footage’ approach to three deeply unlikable c*nts
losing first their way and then their minds while on a camping trip on
Three friends, Brody (Scoot
McNairy), his girlfriend Kerry (Anna
Skellern) and her cousin Leo (Andrew
Hawley) escape the city for a weekend’s camping in Dartmoor’s spooky Wistman’s
Wood. They visit the obligatory
Slaughtered Lamb-style, scary, country pub full of the kind of bumpkins and
yokels who traditionally despise city folk and say things like: “You ain’t from
around here, are you boy?”
After a few drinks, a singsong and some dire warnings by
the bumpkins about the local legend of a witch-murdering huntsman, the three
set off into the wilderness and make camp. However, paranoid voyeur Brody, who obsessively films
everything with his digital camera, is suspicious of the relationship between
Kerry and ‘cousin’ Leo and, as night falls and booze and drugs are imbibed, the small group’s relationship is strained to breaking
point as they are consumed by tension, sexual jealousy and paranoia. But, as they turn on each other, is there
a darker, supernatural force at work in the eerie, desolate woods? More importantly, do you give a flying
f*ck at a downhill-rolling doughnut?
The rate at which ‘found footage’ horror films keep
turning up, you’d imagine that it’d be hard finding a patch of unspoilt
wilderness to camp in for all the corpses of disappeared filmmakers killed by
cannibals, witches, ghosts, trolls, Satanists, cultists, demons, zombies,
aliens, dinosaurs, monsters, government experiments, haunted V/H/S tapes and
just plain old paranormal activity.
The attractions of ‘found footage’ are clear. If you’re a filmmaker, it’s cheap. No need to bother with a big expensive crew or special
effects, heck, no need to even bother with a script; just give your actors a
couple of digital cameras and tell them to improvise. Actors love to improvise more than they love Kabbalah,
Scientology or someone else’s cocaine.
Job done! If you’re a
member of the audience ‘found footage’ allows you the fleeting, visceral thrill
that what you’re watching is real, THAT IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED! Until you recognise that guy from Holby City or, in the case of A Night In The Woods, that girl from
the crappy sequel to The Descent.
Perhaps the worst thing about these movies is they’re all the same! None of them stray from The Blair Witch Project’s
template. Unlikable people go to
woods/haunted house/abandoned asylum. Unlikable people hear scary noises. Unlikable people run around in
people cry and drip snot before off-screen death. Only the unseen threat that’s
chasing them ever changes. None of
them are as smart, intelligent or subversive as the granddaddy of ‘found
footage’ films, Ruggero Deodato’s
1980 classic Cannibal Holocaust, a
film that’s still as fresh and terrifying as it was 30 years ago.
A Night In
The Woods fails to buck this trend. As ever, the camera fails to capture anything of import;
we’re treated to long monologues and allowed to eavesdrop on intense arguments
that go frustratingly unresolved but as soon as something weird happens or one
character attacks another, it’s shaky-cam time and we’re treated to a nice
juddery view of the grass and some muffled screaming while the action takes
place out of shot. The
performances are ok, the actors improvising their tits off, with American Indie
actor Scoot McNairy particularly fine as creepy control freak Brody but there’s
just nothing fresh here, nothing original, and the revelation that Kerry’s
‘cousin’ isn’t really her cousin but the ex she lost her virginity to and may or
may not be having an affair with is head-slapping awful and strains the bounds
of credibility. Who in their right
mind goes camping in remote, desolate Dartmoor with their paranoid, stalkerish
boyfriend AND their borderline
sociopath ex? Come to think of it,
if the guy you’ve just met, who you suspect isn’t your girlfriend’s cousin but
her lover, threatens to “f*cking kill you,” wouldn’t you just leave? Get in the car and go home? Would you really decide to push on with
the camping trip, build a campfire and sit around smoking dope with him?
A Night In
The Woods is 82 minutes long.
That’s 82 minutes of your life you’re never going to get back. 82 minutes that you are simply throwing
back in the faces of the Gods, the Universe, Old Father Time. 82 minutes that some day, maybe on your
deathbed, you’ll regret not spending more wisely. You could have gone for a walk in the park. Visited an elderly relative. Had a couple of pints with your mates. Made love to a beautiful woman/man/goat. Cooked and served a Sunday roast dinner. Flown from London to Berlin. If you fast forward through the really
nasty animal killings, you could even have watched almost all of Cannibal Holocaust.