Quantcast FIRST LOOK:THE WOODS review

FIRST LOOK: THE WOODS (Sept. 06) by Jsyn

Director Lucky McKee first hit the genre scene with MAY, a very twisted yet very sweet coming of age story about a tragically psychotic girl who, like Freddie Mercury and George Michael, just wants to find someone to love.

The next we saw of him was his Masters of Horror episode, "Sick Girl" about a lesbian who gets bitten by a "love" bug and goes wonky on her girlfriend. "Sick Girl" was a bit more quirky and humorous than the Masters of Horror tag implied and many genre fans wondered how this relatively new director with one completed film under his belt could be considered a "master" of horror. Regardless, the episode was very entertaining and definitely one of the best of the largely lackluster season. Lucky McKee seemed to be carving out a nice little niche for himself with his interesting and different characters and stories, kind of like the Todd Solondz of the horror genre.
But between MAY and "Sick Girl", McKee completed THE WOODS, a film that’s been spoken about for a long time but that no one's actually seen until recently. Many have speculated that the reason it was delayed all this time was that frankly, it sucked. Hell, I even remember Bruce Campbell (who appears in THE WOODS) talking smack about it at one of his live appearances. After watching THE WOODS, I'm now convinced of three things:

1) Most people at the big Hollywood studios, especially the people in charge of things like releasing and marketing, are idiots.  

2) Lucky McKee is a next-gen talent well on his way.  

3) Bruce Campbell is developing a very Shatner-like contempt for his fans as he gets older.  
THE WOODS takes place in the Sixties and is the story of Heather, a troubled girl whose parents send her to an exclusive all-girl private school in the middle of upstate somewhere. Heather thinks she's hearing voices and has nightmares of terrible things that may have happened at the school. The Headmistress keeps implying that she’s “special” and one of her bitchy classmates keeps busting her chops with one of the best insults I've ever heard. It seems the school has a secret past involving a mysterious legend about three sisters who were thought to be witches. Apparently one day they were pissed off one too many times, and without giving too much away, shit slowly hits the fan and all kinds of wackiness ensue.

THE WOODS is a real sleeper gem of a film that deserved far more than to simply be dumped unceremoniously on DVD. Lucky McKee has a great visual style, and more importantly, knows how to pace a story in a slow-burn kind of way without getting boring. I love the fact that the movie isn’t exactly easy to peg. There are many different layers to the story and characters that ground the overall film in a kind of dreamlike realism, slowly folding you into its nightmare.  

What’s also great about THE WOODS is that it just feels different overall. There is no MTV style editing, no nu-metal crap soundtrack, no young vapid starlets with perfect hair and tits, and no hip-hoppers who think that just because they’re on TV they can act. One really gets the feeling (although I cannot be certain) that whatever studio financed the movie just kind of stayed out of it and let Lucky do his thing.

His casting choices were spot-on, especially in the leads played by Patricia Clarkson (who I must say, is totally hot for an older woman) and Agnes Bruckner (younger, but equally hot). I also really dug Rachel Nichols as the bitchy classmate who has it in for Heather (yes, she’s hot too). Lucky McKee really crafted something special with THE WOODS, unlike the current crop of ‘tween-centric’ PG-13 genre dreck clogging Malltiplexes.
And that’s probably why we’re going to see it for the first time on DVD and not in a theater. The legions of pubescent Hot Topic ankle-biters may not have the attention span for it. They are more interested in paying to see metro sexual swim team warlocks in a pose-off for all the magic power in the world. After all, our money may be as green as theirs; there are just more of them than us. Hence the golden rule of Hollywood: Those who have the gold, sets the box-office trends or some horseshit like that.

You savor this movie the way you would savor that last 100,000 Grand bar at the bottom of your Halloween candy sack. Take the direct release as somewhat of a blessing… pick up this DVD the day it comes out and enjoy it in the comfort and solitude of your well-equipped home theater. Fuck studio politics and idiocy. -Jsyn

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