Remember when The Blair Witch Project was released? Remember how it brought found footage to the mainstream and was pretty scary? Well, that was almost 15 years ago, and for some reason, filmmakers still think this narrative works. Such is the case with A Night in the Woods.
A Night in the Woods follows Kerry and her boyfriend Brody as they go camping in the woods. Kerry decides to bring her “cousin” Leo along with them. They stop at a pub, hear a local tale about an entity in the woods that carves crosses into people’s foreheads and kills them, and then set off on their trip. Of course, Brody has to film this entire experience – something that Leo questions about thirty minutes into the film. (I had already been questioning it way before this.) And, of course, Leo is not Kerry’s cousin, but her former lover because bringing along an ex lover that you still have a thing for is always the right decision when going camping in the woods where a supposed killer of sinners resides.
In other words, A Night in the Woods is another jumbled mess of a “horror” film.
The fault lies in almost every aspect of the film, too. First, found footage is overused – and from what is new that is coming out in this format – it is deader than dead. I feel I’ve been repeating this in every review I’ve written lately. But would A Night in the Woods have benefited from just a point and shoot perspective? The answer, obviously, is no. Why? Well, the script is so clichéd that there was no hope for it to begin with. I honestly hate having to rip apart films, but when there is no pure effort shown, I can’t forgive it.
A Night in the Woods relies on what was shown to be effective in The Blair Witch Project. But, filmmakers, let me reiterate – it was 15 years ago. Copycatting is no longer worth it. Having a film about a group of young people in the woods with a supernatural entity that may or may not be present, due to the fact that we throw in a bit of conflict and claustrophobia to question it, is not original – and yet we continue to see it over and over again.
While some positivity could be applied to the fact that little gore is relied upon, the “scares” present are ineffective. The actors work with the script they are given. It is a shame to see Scoot McNairy, who gave a great performance in Monsters, as one dimensional Brody. Setting the film in the remote woods of England, with the initial warning of the townsfolk in the pub, only has one longing for the few minutes on the moors in An American Werewolf in London. Unfortunately, the subtlety of A Night in the Woods is not beneficial. Too many flaws leaves it simply as a less than mediocre story.
A Night in the Woods is available on demand September 24th, 2013 and in theatres in New York and San Diego October, 24th, 2013.