|starring||James Russo, Tracy Coogan|
|trailer 1||Trailer #1|
There are few places in this world where you are can truly feel safe. In your house or apartment, in a hotel room, maybe up in your mountain cabin. The doors are thick and sturdy, there are locks on the windows, everything is secure. Nothing to worry about. Nobody’s getting in here.
But recent horror movies like Vacancy and The Strangers have skillfully dismantled this “man’s home is his castle” façade. Utilizing superior craftsmanship, both films managed to successfully invoke our collective fears from within the constricted confines of a single remote setting. Dark Woods, striving for the heightened psychological complexities of a similarly high-gloss thriller, instead lurches slowly from scene to scene like a dim-witted stable boy soaping horse stalls.
Devoted husband Henry drives his terminally ill wife Susan to an isolated cabin in the woods, where he’s hoping she’ll die peacefully in the fresh mountain air. Susan may look pale and sickly, but that doesn’t stop Henry from trying to hit it on occasion, and he’s one tenacious bastard—even when his sexual advances are repeatedly rebuffed, Henry keeps on trying to tap that keg. With Susan slowly dying right in front of Henry’s perpetually horny eyes, it appears there’s no way that Dark Woods could get any more depressing. That is, until a scary bearded hobo sneaks into the house one night and gropes the couch-ridden Susan.
Henry gives half-ass chase while brandishing a fireplace poker, but the spry hobo vanishes into the woods. Henry alerts the local sheriff the next morning, but his claims are dismissed as the mischievous antics of a local hermit. Later, while jogging alone through the woods, Henry discovers a teenage girl being attacked by the same bearded pervert. Henry rescues the girl as the attacker once again flees into the woods. Once notified of the attack, the sheriff insists that the young teenage girl stay with Henry and Susan for a few days. No problem, says Henry. A horny husband, a half-dead wife and a blond teenage girl, all isolated together in a warmly lit cabin? Let the psychological shenanigans ensue. Or whatever.
After its ham-fisted set-up, the increasingly illogical behavior of the characters threatens to dismantle Dark Woods at every turn. What kind of a lame duck husband waits until morning to report his wife’s molestation? Are there really law enforcement officials who defend local bearded hermits so vehemently that they’re willing to completely ignore charges of aggravated sexual assault? And if Henry and Susan are going to accept guardianship of a teenage girl on the order of the sheriff, don’t they have to be licensed foster parents or something?
None of this matters in the bizarre, slightly Lynchean world of Dark Woods; a place where awkward, baggy pauses hang on the end of each line of dialogue; a place where the characters change emotional gears more often than an unmedicated schizophrenic; a place where the camera rolls and people talk and argue and yet nothing ever really happens. The hobo groper angle—arguably the most compelling aspect of the plot—is all but abandoned once Henry discovers the teenage girl. Suddenly morphing into Poison Ivy-lite, the rest of the movie spirals limply into a narrative abyss.