A Night in the Woods, 2011.
Directed by Richard Parry.
Starring Scoot McNairy, Anna Skellern and Andrew Hawley.
A Night in the Woods follows three friends, Brody, his girlfriend Kerry and her cousin Leo, as they go camping in Dartmoor's Wistman Woods. Bad moods, paranoia and sexual tension all threaten to overpower the group's fragile hold on reality as the darkness in the woods takes hold...
So just exactly where does a homage end and a rip-off begin? The audience of A Night in the Woods, a British horror/thriller deeply indebted to 1999's hugely influential The Blair Witch Project, may well find themselves asking this very question. Billed as a UK answer to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez's seminal chiller and the more recent Paranormal Activity series, this uninspired run through the trees does not compare well with those vastly superior titles.
Following the camping exploits of a trio of unlikeable 20-somethings (Scoot McNairy, Anna Skellern, Andrew Hawley) on holiday in Dartmoor, the film mistakes dull, sniping arguments for dramatic tension. The result is something of a mess and any real scares or shocks are noticeable by their absence. Usually in a film with such low standards there would be a recognisable villain or evil presence one could root for after being exposed to such unpleasant characters. Sadly, even this pleasure is denied us, as the haunting takes second billing to the group's emotional disturbances and personal jealousies. This approach may have worked with better rounded characters and a better script, but here it is just a horror movie with very little actual, you know, horror.
The best parts of the film are to be found near the beginning, as a pub full of locals describe in An American Werewolf in London style the strange goings on taking place in their woods. Aside from this relatively well worked out scene, most of the plus points revolve around the impressive camera techniques. Indeed, at times, cinematographer Simon Dennis' screen work threatens to resemble a camcorder commercial, so slick are the fades, filters and effects. However, while polished camera work is always important, here it draws attention away from the supposed focus and slows down the pace, clogging up the narrative with the next luxurious shot.
Ultimately the film fails as a supernatural thriller and a horror story due to a lack of suspense, belief and, most obviously, any proper back-story to the eerie occurrences. Without this there is nothing invested in the characters or their story. Constantly struggling to overcome (and failing) its flimsy concept and lazy script, A Night in the Woods is neither frightening, edgy nor original. It is simply another forgettable movie to stick on the 'charity shop pile'. One to miss.
Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert W Monk