THE DEVIL'S WOODS

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The Devil’s Woods is Anthony White’s debut feature film and the latest release from Irish distributor Left films. It’s a woods film, the same kind of woods film we’ve been subjected to for years and with so many great variations, it’s tough to stand out. With the upcoming release of Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch, there’s renewed interest in the subgenre, and a lot of retrospective love for a location that’s continually grasped our collective interest.

White’s film spends a good amount of time introducing its group of potential victims, and perhaps too long putting them into position. It’s sometimes slow and the acting can wobble, but for the most part the cast do well with what they have. White does best when he figures out what he wants his film to be, but by then too much time has passed and too many characters have been unceremoniously offed. Left specializes in rough-around-the-edges films with too little gore to be shocking and not enough story to be interesting. The Devil’s Woods suffers from exactly those issues.

What’s frustrating is that White has the bare bones of a decent folk horror (The Wicker Man’s animal masks and weird locals et all) but doesn’t quite exploit them as much as Paul Scott’s eerie acoustic soundtrack does.  The Devil’s Woods is also remarkably tame in its scares and gore, notching only two real gruesome moments and a lot of plain-Jane scare tactics. Much of the botched horror comes from badly edited action and too much low-quality shooting in boring interiors. There’s a real strain here between the jumpy horror beats of any old woods horror, and the slow folky vibes of something like Kill List. White cuts around the effects that he can’t afford pretty well, and is smart to reserve his most gruelling kill for the shock ending. Some of the best images come from the final act, where White, serving as cinematographer as well, pulls of a genuinely thrilling woods chase which achieves more tension than the rest of the film put together thanks to simple framing and depth of field.

White’s debut is sometimes confusing, and not particularly ambitious, which is dangerous for a debut film. However, there’s potential in the last act that proves he can navigate a climax, but overall, The Devil’s Woods is too scarce for its short runtime.

THE DEVIL'S WOODS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ANTHONY WHITE / STARRING: STEPHEN CROMWELL,  RICHARD MASON, AOIFE KING, EOIN QUINN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
 


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