There is an intriguing premise at the heart of Jeremy Benson’s Girl In Woods. Troubled young woman Grace (Reeves), plagued by horrific visions and nightmares, embarks on a trip with soon-to-be fiancé Jim (London) into the deep woods of the Smoky Mountains. Following a tragic accident, she is left alone with only her malevolent psyche for company.
Sadly, that’s where said intrigue ends as the film descends into a weary take on the usual psycho-in-woods yarn, with the only variation being a largely unsuccessful change to the traditional perspective.
A couple of years ago James Franco brought us a version of Cormac McCarthy’s Child Of God, a film that initially sets up its unpleasant protagonist as a vaguely sympathetic character before revealing the true depravity in his soul. Where that film developed an interesting, if at times extremely tough, portrayal of what humans can become when away from normal social order, Girl In Woods seems content simply just to tick a few formulaic boxes.
It’s made very clear early on that Grace has some issues she would do well to seek help with – the regular pill-taking and the gory nightmares are not the subtlest of tools – and when she finds herself lost in seemingly impenetrable woods, you kind of know where the plot is headed. What develops, though, is an elongated period with Grace wandering around literally talking to herself and stumbling from one ill-fated attempt at survival to another. Benson cleverly restricts the amount of information released to the audience, and there is a sense of mystery surrounding Grace’s visions until a final act reveal, but this becomes increasingly frustrating as her ramblings become less and less interesting.
This frustration is further fuelled by the poor performances. Frustratingly unconvincing, both the leads and the peripheral characters fail to stave off the impression of awkwardness with their dialogue, giving the sense that their lines were handed to them at the last minute with little or no time to prepare. The result is several scenes that are well constructed by the director only to be let down the moment someone opens their mouth to speak.
The finale does deliver some respite from the meandering tedium but is not enough to rescue the film entirely. The idea of taking the perspective from the mysterious psycho-in-the-woods character from so many slasher horror fares is an interesting one, but Girl In Woods only manages to develop the premise so far. As is so often the case, this is a film that promises so much yet delivers so little.
GIRL IN WOODS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JEREMY BENSON / STARRING: JULIET REEVES, JEREMY LONDON, CHARISMA CARPENTER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW