Devil in the Woods (2012)
(15) Running time: 94 minutes
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writer: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner, Allie MacDonald
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Over the years director Darren Lynn Bousman has gathered somewhat of a cult following, largely due to his horror opera extravaganza Repo! The Genetic Opera. However, directing Saw 2 and 3 also helped boost his career as a talented horror director, and films like Mother’s Day, 666: The Prophecy and his said to be brilliant musical play, The Devil’s Carnival, have done nothing to hurt his reputation. His fans love him, and to be honest, I have a lot of time for Bousman, which is why reviewing Devil in the Woods upsets me.
Yes 666: The Prophecy was not perfect, but it had great ideas, and a really sinister atmosphere, while Mother’s Day was a cool twist on the home invasion thriller. Bousman is good at injecting creativity into a genre, and yes Devil in the Woods does boast some neat tricks, but sadly the film is really rather dull. In fairness, the film struggles with two main plot scenarios, where one would have done just fine.
We get an interesting story about a family going on vacation to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, home of the mysterious monster known as the Jersey Devil, and for some reason a bizarre tale of the Father’s madness is thrown in for good measure, which didn’t really need to be there.
Stephen Moyer plays Richard, an over-protective Father who takes his family on a much needed camping break, much to the dismay of troubled teen daughter Sadie (Allie MacDonald). Hoping for a quiet holiday while scattering his Father’s ashes, Richard is annoyed to find large numbers of teens also camping in the woods hoping to get a glimpse of the Jersey Devil. Richard blows up at the teens over spooky campfire stories, and becomes a little too controlling over his daughters behaviour with the boys who clearly have a fancy for her. Richard continues to become more and more stressed, and madness soon kicks in as he literally deteriorates into a psychotic mess.
It is all a bit suspect, and never really delved into deep enough to find out exactly what is wrong. A bizarre conversation with a local sheriff see’s Richard lying about his address, and he has a severe guilty conscience over the death of the family dog. It doesn’t really mount up to anything, and sadly Moyer isn’t up to the task here of convincing in his role. The rest of the family do not fair any better in terms of their acting skills, and so the story struggles to really engage, and it is left to the mysterious Jersey Devil to bring the horror, and this story plods along nicely with some creepiness here and there. Again though, it seems that Bousman was more interested in creating atmosphere and menace before focusing on his actors, and the Jersey Devil plot is well thought out, but poorly executed by the cast.
Bousman is on great form in terms of the look of the film, and the cinematography at times is stunning. The woods and lake setting promote some really impressive shots, and Bousman good use of colour and lighting really add a dreamlike quality that works brilliantly. The score is menacing throughout, and really ups the creepiness, while the overall atmosphere is one of dread and menace, and is nicely realised by Bousman. Devil in the Woods wins in terms of the films design, look and feel, but sadly is let down by a really poor script delivered by some pretty unconvincing acting.
It is a shame, but this is the first film by the director that has generally pissed me off. A great idea, but sadly there is too much going on here, and the film would have been much more effective if it was simplified. Even the finale, which is great by the way, cannot save this rather lifeless tale that is desperately struggling for a true identity. A seriously missed opportunity.