The Woods

JUNE 13, 2007


Faithful readers (if I have any) will remember that I usually keep a piece of paper next to me to jot down notes while I watch the film (at least, when I’m watching the movie at home. People who write stuff in the theater are douches). This aids me in writing the review, especially when I don’t have the chance to write it until a day or two later. Well even though it was only like 6 hrs ago, I stumped myself with my notes for Lucky McKee’s The Woods.

There were very few notes to begin with, which makes this anecdote even sadder. On the paper, I had written: “Don’t tell me what to do.” I stared at this for a good 10 minutes trying to recall what the hell it meant. Still puzzled, I went to drop a deuce, and immediately after… completing the task, I remembered: it was the lyric from the Lesley Gore song “You Don’t Own Me”, which was featured in the film. It stuck out because Mike Mendez used it in The Convent to similar effect. It’s a really unintentionally creepy song. Not as creepy as “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” from Dusty Springfield, but close. I’ve always wanted to make a mix CD of songs that for some reason creep me out. To me, Carly Simon’s “That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be” is more terrifying than anything in half the movies I watch.

And are there any all girls schools in the middle of nowhere that AREN’T evil? Suspiria, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Woods… just once, I’d like to see a girl be sent off to a woodsy private school, only to be immediately killed accidentally by a neighboring wizard. The rest of the movie is about the wizard’s attempts to revive her, the school never seen again. You know how in the Simpsons, the first 5 minutes or so have almost nothing to do with the real story? We need more movies like that.

Anyway, this film didn’t deserve to be sent direct to video. Especially when star Agnes Bruckner’s other horror efforts (Blood and Chocolate, Venom) were god awful and greeted with wide theatrical releases. And what other movie offers Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson getting axed to death? Certainly not Good Night and Good Luck (and the movie is the poorer for it).

Not that it’s any sort of masterpiece. I literally had to take a shit to remember anything about it 6 hrs later. But it moves along well and has some really gruesome (and unexpected) gore, if you like that sort of thing. There’s also some nice playing with conventions, in particular: Bruckner’s character never has the “I swear I SAW something!” scene with no one believing her. Instead, another character has to try to convince her that something is amiss, and of course by then it’s too late. Stuff like that is always nice to see. And extra bonus points to McKee and writer David Ross for having a scene where Bruce Campbell goes to a shed to look for a weapon, but does not have him “hilariously” pick up a chainsaw. Indeed, Campbell plays the role entirely straight, which I think is the first time he has done so other than that one X-Files episode. Good for him!

McKee is a solid director, and with a good script (i.e. May) he can work wonders. In fact, he’s a good enough director that his work elevates the messy script, something few directors can pull off. Give the guy something good! It’s not like we’re overloaded with solid modern horror directors. Very few have proven they can make more than one good film.

The movie does have a pet peeve of mine though: Poor green-screen compositing giving away a scare. There’s a scene where a cop gets into his car. Nothing exciting is going on, but everything outside of the car has clearly been added in later, which means – THERE IT IS! A tree monster thing smashes in and impales him. But the problem is, there are like 2 or 3 other shots in between him getting into the car and the actual killing, thus defusing all suspense, because we knew right from the get-go that something was going to happen. In such cases, I wish the first shot would be real, so when they cut back to it and it’s fake, you don’t notice before the attack occurs. Then again, some folks never even notice these things so whatever.

If nothing else, The Woods features a character that is consistently referred to as “Firecrotch”, and gets a laugh or two from mocking a poor woman’s nervous tic. Classy.

What say you?


  1. Lucky McKee is such a mixed bag for me. He seems beloved by many horror fans and critics yet to me, May, is really the only one of his films that I've really enjoyed watching. (I really lost interest toward the end of The Woods)

    I guess part of his appeal as a filmmaker is that his heart seems to be in the right place and you can tell he LOVES making horror movies. He tries hard to produce a films that's a little off and a little different even if it's a nothing special.

    I'm still waiting for his next big thing...

  2. I didn't think it was a great movie, but it's a lot better than most stuff that comes out these days. In my opinion it would've been a lot more interesting, perhaps even scarier, if it had been entirely about the horrors of being in a boarding school. For instance, that scene where the teacher freaked out at Agnes Bruckner for not having her shirt tucked in and whatnot was a lot scarier to me than those CGI branches coming in through the window. Still, if the film hadn't gone in that direction we wouldn't have that certain laugh-out-loud hilarious scene in the hospital with Bruce Campbell. Unless I have a bad sense of humor, anyone who's seen this movie should know the one.


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