THE DEVIL’S WOODS (2015)
Written and Directed by Anthony White
A group of friends set off for a music festival in a bid to strengthen their relationships. On their way, they decide to set up camp at a patch of woodland. Keith delights in telling his girlfriend and friends about the disturbing history of the woods but it isn’t long before the four friends discover for themselves the true horrors that lie in wait for them.
Indie Irish horror movie THE DEVIL’S WOODS knows its limitations and works within them to produce a solid, if unremarkable, piece of micro-budget cinema. Taking the tropes of horror, from small village pub housing creepy locals eyeing up the female talent to the mythology of the woods the friends decide to camp at, writer/director Anthony White has clearly done his upmost best to set up a believable environment for his vision of terror. Establishing his characters, two couples, one of whom are having a relationship breakdown, we see that the weekend away for the characters is as much about repairing relationships as it is about taking drugs and having sex. The two young couples are rather likable, even cheeky Keith, the outspoken prankster of the group, but their decision to stop off in the woods for the night will be one they’ll come to regret…
It may have a basic premise, but THE DEVIL’S WOODS has lots of heart with the filmmakers clearly dedicated lovers of the horror genre and film as a whole. With this passion behind the film, it manages to deliver the tension, unease and chills when needed with its cast providing believable characters the viewer can invest in. Their own additional dialogue benefits the film greatly as their friendship bounces off the screen as something we, the viewer, can care about so when shit starts to go down in the woods, albeit predictable, we’re actually concerned about the outcome for the characters.
Whilst the character chemistry is one of the highlights of THE DEVIL’S WOODS, what really impressed me about this film is the cinematography. The way in which the film was shot allows the viewer to believe most of what’s on-screen so that even if money or suitable effects weren’t available for certain scenes, they’d shoot it in a way to disguise it rather than shoot it like a Hollywood movie and expose the sub-par qualities. By utilising what they have and allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps is the best approach to budget filmmaking and works really well in this movie. That’s not to say there aren’t any effects in the movie, because there are, but they’re done and shot in a fantastic way to look better and more realistic than they actually are.
I’ve watched a lot of low budget movies recently but this one was a pleasant suprise. A road trip-cum-woodland slasher with a hint of The Wicker Man is essentially what we have here and, despite its flaws, such as poor audio and a straight-forward plot, THE DEVIL’S WOODS manages to deliver an indie horror film experience that you’re happy to sit through and not launch your TV remote at in anger as long as you acknowledge its budget limitations.