Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (2020)

FEBRUARY 23, 2023


A while back I tried to imagine someone who was born in say, 1986 or so, and then in 1995 their dad or whoever took them to see Waterworld as one of their first big blockbuster experiences. They were probably blown away by the adventure, the stunts, the relationship between the hero and the little kid (about their age!), etc, and it became this kind of formative movie for them, right? And then one day they saw Road Warrior, and realized that their beloved movie was just aping another one beat for beat. Would that bum them out, or would they even care much? It's something that came to mind during Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (Polish: W lesie dzis nie zasnie nikt), which is billed as Poland's first slasher movie, so it stands to reason that, for a younger viewer living in Poland, it might in turn be the first slasher movie they ever saw.

If so, then they might be into it! Alas, I - and presumably many others who have seen lots of these things - found it to be bordering on obnoxious with its blatant thefts from other (and better) films, made worse by the fact that these stolen kills were the relative relief from a painfully slow pace that botches a promising setup. Our group of teens are the new arrivals at a camp their parents have sent them to in order to wean them off of their addiction to technology (cell phones mostly, though there are a couple of influencers and gamers too), which is a pretty novel excuse to send a bunch of kids into the woods. As a bonus, it's a solid way to get around the usual "why are these people friends?" problem that a lot of modern slashers have (they're NOT friends!) but also keeps them relatable, as opposed to the other "motley crew" setups that we see a lot, i.e. "a group of delinquent teens on community service", which automatically has the viewer feeling they're "bad kids". Hell, assuming he isn't murdered by a backwoods mutant, I might end up sending my own kid to a camp like this if he doesn't stop looking at his damn iPad all day.

It also offers a decent alternative for the "no service" thing since all their phones are confiscated, but when we see overhead shots of the woods I don't think anyone would roll their eyes at the idea that they can't get a signal, so it's kind of moot. But it's far more troubling that we meet a dozen or so kids - by name! - and then most of them are never seen again as we only focus on five of them (plus their guide) who go off to do some orienteering/real camping kinda stuff. I kept hoping that the movie was building toward one or two of our heroes finding their way back to the camp, only for the killers to lay waste to everyone else in one big, The Burning-esque bloodbath, but nah. The movie's final kill is of a character who is (slowly/dully) introduced only moments before, and like pretty much every other kill in the movie it's a direct swipe from an earlier movie (Wrong Turn 2 in that case, but we also get direct "nods" to the likes of F13 New Blood, Freddy vs Jason, and Halloween 4). The half dozen or so perfectly suitable victims are never seen again, which is fine in a movie like Friday the 13th Part 2 when there's still a healthy body count and a legitimate explanation for their disappearance (they go into town to party, leaving six others at the camp), but here it just feels like an unnecessary tease. Even if they couldn't afford to do x number of more kills, they could at least just have the Final Girl stumble on the camp after its already been decimated (which would take all of 20 minutes to splash some blood around and film a reaction shot of her finding it).

This also wastes the two killer concept (very Just Before Dawn, which is also a bit slow but at least still comes in 10-12 minutes shorter), as they give that much away fairly early but never really do anything with it. They literally take turns - there's a scene where one comes home and goes to bed, prompting the other to pick up an axe and continue the job. Both are giant brutes (one kind of Victor Crowley-looking with his overalls, but even bigger) so there's clearly a physical advantage over any of the other characters, but it seems having two working side by side could have yielded some solid carnage, not to mention reduced how often I felt I was just watching a fan remake of another movie. Instead we get a pointless, pace-breaking flashback to explain how they came to be deformed and strong, as if a line or two of dialogue wouldn't suffice for all it mattered (if you want a hint, click the movie's title in the first paragraph). And it doesn't help that most of their actions are off screen; on occasion it's intentional (a guy is (metaphorically) spilling his guts to a girl, only to look over and see she's been impaled at some point), but for the most part it feels like the result of an effects team not actually knowing how to do things like "show a weapon making impact", which gets tiresome after a while - especially when there are relatively few kills over 102 minutes.

Also (this isn't the movie's fault, but worth noting) those who are hard of hearing are getting a different idea of certain characters, because the dub track and the subtitles almost never match up. The basic idea is the same, usually, but the devil's in the details and all, and here the subtitle person dropped the ball. For example, there's a character who loves making movie references, because of course there is, and after witnessing an attack he goes into Bill Paxton Aliens mode, shouting "Game over man, GAME OVER!" until he's quieted down, showing that he doesn't even drop the shtick when faced with danger, and therefore is a coping mechanism of some sort. The subs, however, just put "It's f---ing over!", which is just a generic whatever line. Later, there's a scene where a cop is seen meeting with a prostitute, and when she leaves she says "See you next week?" The dub track has him reply with her name ("Yes, Tessa") but the subs have him call her "sweetie", which reads as condescending as opposed to affectionate. I've been told in the past that the reason a dub and sub track often don't match up is because the dub is trying to match the actor's mouth and the sub is closer to the language, but in both of these cases, and many others, we can't even see the speaker's mouth, so it's a baffling discrepancy to me. Plus, you'd think that the original language with subtitles would be preferable, but more often than not, the dub track is the one with those character details.

And I know, it's a slasher so who cares about character, right? Sure, if the body count was in the 20-25 range and thus the movie was action packed enough to not even notice such things, but when it's this slow paced and derivative, the movie needs all the help it can get. I found it amusing that it was the rare modern slasher where the characters were sympathetic and even well rounded (one of them is gay and his dad pretends not to notice, another found himself getting more confidence thanks to his gaming prowess only for his parents to shut it down), but they botched pretty much everything else. Well, I take that back - the score is actually quite good, with one cue sounding like Riz Ortolani's lovely theme from Cannibal Holocaust, but with a dash of - of all things - "You Were Always on My Mind"? There's a sequel that sounds kind of interesting (it's supposedly told from the killer's perspective? Per Netflix synopsis anyway) but the reviews are pretty bad so I can't say I'll be rushing to check it out if it's somehow not even as "good" as this. I'll just go listen to the soundtrack or something.

What say you?

P.S. They do in fact sleep in the woods.

1 comment:

  1. Mate, you should definitely check out the sequel. It's a shit ton weirder than the first one


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