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Monday, December 28, 2009

THE EVIL WOODS -- movie review by porfle


"Whatever you do, stay away from...THE EVIL WOODS!"

No, this isn't a tagline for the 2007 film. It's me, warning you. I only wish someone had been there to warn me. Back in the old days, in a more innocent time before I became the hollow, burned-out shell of a man you now see before you, I cavalierly thought movies like MOTOR HOME MASSACRE and DARK FIELDS were the worst. Oh, how wrong I was. Those films were blazing cinematic masterpieces compared to THE EVIL WOODS. But before I continue, here's a synopsis of the plot to bring you all up to speed:

"Once upon a time, a group of obnoxious young people went camping in the woods, wandered around for a while, and then eventually got murdered by a guy with an axe. The end."

Hmm, did I leave anything out? Oh yeah, there's the part where...no, that just about covers it. I'd like to be able to say that this threadbare plot is seasoned with a few imaginative twists and turns and goosed by an inventive visual style, but I'd just be making it up. In fact, THE EVIL WOODS doesn't simply play out the same tired old formula we've seen in scores of other stalk 'n' slash films--it actually takes that basic formula and reduces it to a bare minimum that I normally wouldn't have thought humanly possible.

Over three quarters into the film, we're still watching the characters wander away from camp one by one and walk around in the woods for long stretches of time, as the story builds and builds to the point in which they inevitably return to camp and drink some more beer. We get a couple of those scenes in which a character is about to get hacked and then wakes up--it was only a dream! And then there are those tension-packed highlights where someone turns around and suddenly comes face to face with--one of the other campers. The best part, though, is the way the filmmakers deviously trick us into thinking something's about to happen, and then pull the wool over our eyes by totally not having anything happen. Man, I didn't see those parts coming at all.


We get the usual inbred yokel popping up now and then, since every forest in every slasher film has to have at least one inbred yokel (especially if it's in--gasp--THE SOUTH!) wandering around as a red herring to fool us into thinking he's the killer. Another red herring is this guy who stumbles upon the campers while hiking through the woods. He tells them the story of a forest ranger who was accidentally burned alive inside his cabin by some other campers years ago, and now he stalks the woods killing campers. After meeting these particular campers, we're already on his side.

The killer himself, it turns out, is a guy wearing a parka. I guess all the other cool-looking serial killer ensembles were already taken. It's a pretty scary parka, though, because it's, like, you know, furry and stuff. One of the cool things about a good slasher flick is the inventive methods the killer uses to slaughter his victims. Unfortunately, I don't think this killer ever saw any of those movies.

He does ram one guy's head against a tree ten or fifteen times, and there's some fake blood on the tree that looks pretty real. Whew! That was a highlight. Mostly, though, he just swings his axe and the victim spits up some more fake blood, and that's it. The director does display some real daring, though, by staging the buildup to these big moments with absolutely no suspense whatsoever.


One of the best parts features two of the homeliest girls in horror film history sunbathing topless, which is possibly the scariest scene in the whole movie. And one of the main characters, John (Brad E. Smith), is fascinating to watch because he's nothing more than a perpetual profanity-spewing, fart-lighting boor of the first order. He whizzes on the campfire while everyone is sitting around it, regales his fellow campers with tales such as the time he was receiving a blowjob in a parking lot when suddenly struck by an urgent burst of explosive flatulence, and constantly refers to everyone else as either "bitches" or "pussies." I don't think he actually had any written dialogue--instead, I suspect that it merely said "be a total asshole" whenever his name appeared in the script.

Surprisingly, this film features a rather good synth score by Scott Ford and some nice cinematography, both of which are better than it deserves. The performances are pretty good, too (especially Ivory Dortch as "Shannon"), considering what the actors had to work with. Other than that, though, this is pretty much one of the biggest wastes of time I've ever managed to sit through without actually falling out of my chair, dead.

I usually give independent filmmakers credit just for being able to put a low-budget film together in the first place--I'm sure it's not an easy undertaking. But it's nice when you get the impression that they were at least trying to make something watchable. THE EVIL WOODS, on the other hand, is the cinematic equivalent of someone getting shit-faced, lighting a few farts, and then passing out with his pants down.

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