Review: A Night in the Woods / Cert: 15 / Director: Richard Parry / Screenplay: Richard Parry / Starring: Scoot McNairy, Anna Skellern, Andrew Hawley / Release Date: September 10th
If you want to point fingers at who you can blame for the current flood of ‘found footage’ movies, then it’s probably Paranormal Activity and its endless imitators. Going further back though and The Blair Witch Project is probably the inspiration for that film, although it took a while for its influence to be fully felt. A Night in the Woods is a film heavily indebted to Blair Witch; in fact it’s almost a carbon copy of the film at times.
We start off meeting nice young couple Kerry (Skellern) and her American boyfriend Brody (McNairy) who are preparing for a camping trip. We establish fairly early on that Brody is pretty obsessive about filming everything, which takes care of the inevitable plot hole later in the film. Kerry and Brody pick up Kerry’s ‘cousin’ Leo (Hawley) who is a fairly suspicious character and the three of them set off for the Dartmoor countryside. En route they end up in a pub straight out of another classic film where they are warned about the legend of a Hangman who haunts the woods. They make their way into the wilderness and tensions mount, drugs and alcohol are consumed and nobody is quite who they appear to be. It’s possible that someone or something is watching them.
The problem with A Night in the Woods is that it’s a film that is afraid to stand on its own feet and be the British equivalent of the Blair Witch, it really wants to but either rips it off completely or doesn’t go far enough in any of the intriguing directions it presents. Luckily for director Richard Parry, he’s got some great actors for the three major cast members. McNairy is his down to earth likeable self from Monsters, Skellern is convincing as a victim/hysterical woman in trouble and Hawley is alternately likeable and creepy.
As the film goes on it presents you with several scenarios which could be supernatural in nature or could be wholly human in origin. None of these threads are ever concluded satisfactorily though. It’s pretty clear early on that Leo is some kind of sociopath and Brody is a borderline pervert, inexplicably the two of them desert Kerry mid-way through the film and you are left scratching your head rather than fearing for her. When the supposed supernatural elements make their presence felt it just doesn’t work because it’s so indebted to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez.
We’ve seen far worse than A Night in the Woods recently; it doesn’t quite reach the lows of Evil Things but also doesn’t equal the highs of V/H/S. It remains an average watch you won’t remember in the morning.