Monsters in the Woods (2012): No release date available
(TBC) Running time: 84 minutes
Director: Jason Horton
Writer: Jason Horton
Starring: Glenn Plummer, Lee Perkins, Linda Bella, Edward Hendershott, Claudia Perea
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
With found footage horrors continuing to be all the rage, it is no wonder that the majority of horror directors are looking for new ways to add fuel to the ever growing genre. The latest to add his ideas is director Jason Horton, director of comedy Should’ve Put a Ring on It and the thriller Trap. With Monsters in the Woods, Horton manages to breathe new life into a genre which is fast using up its resources, and actually manages to add a rather inventive twist. Here we are presented with a movie within a movie, using hand held camera from both a crew documenting a film currently shooting in the woods, and also the cameras from the film production crew and actors themselves. It is a brave idea which could have presented problems to the viewer had it not been produced right. There was always a risk that the stories could have become lost, and that the viewer forgets whether they are watching the actual film, the “found footage”, the documentary or the actual film that is being made. Thankfully Horton holds it together, and Monsters in the Woods does not get confusing and surprisingly plays out very effectively. There is a superbly executed twist around the beginning of the final third of the film which will catch you off guard and, hopefully, have you applauding, I did!
Anyway, the plot, so that you can get your head around what the Hell I am talking about, is very simple. A low budget film maker called Jayson Harrisford (a terrific Glenn Plummer) has made the movie of his dreams; however he cannot sell it in Hollywood. Much to his annoyance, he is ordered to add more sex and violence so that the film will be more cutting edge and so with his producer, Bravo Roberts (Blaine Cade), they head into the woods which a bunch of B-movie actors and actresses to re-shoot their film, and spice it up. A documentary film crew is also along for the ride to film the developments as we watch the crew try and create something a little more dangerous. With a documentary crew on hand, and the film crews own cameras, we get multiple angles of the film within a film developing, and we the viewer get to see everything. Added to this a camera of one of the actresses as well, and we are pretty much spoilt for choice. Horton manages to bring all these different cameras together to create a wonderful experience, and cleverly twist not only the found footage genre, but also the film within a film idea. Harrisford is here to shoot his cast being attacked by a bizarre, almost bird-like faced monster, and in a brilliantly thought out twist of fate, the film crew themselves become the victims of actual monsters roaming the woods!
Monsters in the Woods is very tongue and cheek, the comedy is brilliantly written and the cast of almost unknowns manage to get you on their side. For all their moaning about not getting paid, not getting to play a part, or even having to go through training to play their character, the cast all develop their roles very convincingly. If you can get your audience to like your cast, then you’re already half way there. Plummer really does take charge of the film though, and his clear frustration of having to re-shoot his film pours out of every word, every action, every facial expression. He looks a broken man, so when his producer tells him they have no money, he replies “I don’t care, do whatever you have to do” And so begins our film. The story opens like a porn movie, with a very hot blonde having sex in a tent, all of a sudden we get an idea of exactly the kind of film we are about to watch as she asks the guy on top of her “what was your name again?” “Burt” he replies. A clear indication that this is not a film to take seriously, and we are here to have fun, and have fun you will. From Harrisford whispering to his script lady “can I fire here” after the blonde asks someone to yell “cut” to the monsters themselves, Horton just wants you to step into his woods for 90 minutes and just enjoy yourself.
He makes it very easy, with the guys all delivering line after line of very funny dialogue (“I posses a rare talent only a few actors have, De Niro, Brando, Pacino” or when asked by a gun wielding woman assassin in the later stages “who are you?” our resident porn actor Burt replies “I’m an actor!”) to the wonderful collection of very hot, very sexy young ladies, Horton knows his audience. We even get the “stroppy slut” who just wants to play a role, and is absolutely useless when she gets her chance, and so carries on trying to sleep with everyone while constantly eating her medication. Better still the documentary filmmaker is a pervert, and so spends half his time filming the girls and their assets rather than actually making a documentary. This all adds up to a very enjoyable experience, added to that the setting is superb. Mostly filmed during the day, the low budget design means the woods don’t come across as too big or film-like, they look like genuine woods that you could have visited hundreds of times. I really really liked the setting, and as a bonus the music which plays throughout certain parts of the film really enhance the overall mood. With pounding, tribal like drum rhythms, the whole atmosphere feels like a comfortable place where bad things are about to happen, and they do.
In a bizarre plot idea, there are constant earthquakes, which lead to the actors arguing amongst themselves as to their size. The idea is unnecessary but does offer some added comedy. Then there’s the camera work, clearly this film was made on a budget, but cleverly Horton uses his skills behind the camera to get the most out of his budget restraints. Earthquakes are created by the camera simply jolting around and the cast clearly pretending, but it looks funny. The monsters themselves are very cleverly presented on screen with cuts and camera movements hiding any dodgy effects work. The monsters may not be to everyone’s taste, with today’s CGI hungry audience probably finding them a bit silly. However, those old school horror fans out there who love the “man in a suit” will find much enjoyment as the monsters wobble through the woods, clearly created by men in outfits, and at times they actually look like they are all laughing with each other. This kind of silliness is really refreshing as there are far too many filmmakers out there who simply have to be serious. Where’s the fun gone, why can’t directors just have a laugh and allow the viewer just to laugh along with them?
This is not to say Monsters in the Woods is without flaws, far from it. The acting can at times become annoying, and the shaky camera will try your patience now and again, but there is so much to like here. And to be fair, if the acting here was of Oscar quality, you would not get one of the funniest scenes of the year as we witness Burt spot a very large spider while in a hole in the ground. The scream he bellows it is one of the funniest things I have seen in ages! Monsters in the Woods doesn’t want to be big, doesn’t want to be clever, it just wants to entertain for 90 minutes and do exactly what is says on the tin, and it does. Don’t go in expecting miracles, grab a few beers, press play and just relax and enjoy the show.