It’s been all of one week since I’ve seen an exploitation film, and Chilean director Patricio Valladares has seen fit to remedy that with Hidden In The Woods, which is currently being remade by Valladares himself with Michael Biehn starring. The film has rubbed more than a few people the wrong way at various festivals, and is now available for your viewing pleasure. Those audiences weren’t lying. Hidden In The Woods‘ tale of drugs, incest, cannibalism and outright mayhem isn’t what you’d call a good time had by all.
Sisters Anny and Ana are being raised in a shack by their abusive drug dealer father. He murdered their mother in front of them when they were younger, and later raped Ana, who produced her deformed brother, Manuel. When the cops come to investigate the happenings, Father decides to do away with them via chainsaw, but he’s soon captured and incarcerated. While things sound like they’ve turned for the better, the girls are now the target of their father’s boss, drug kingpin Uncle Costello, who thinks that they know the location of a big drug stash.
I’m always at a loss on how to describe the quality of a film of this type. It’s definitely exploitation to its core. The camera seemingly enjoys witnessing the misery and pain of male and female characters. Valladares has described the film as a comedy of sorts, but it’s hard to see that other than the film being so over-the-top that it’s absurd. Every male character in this film might as well have “rapist” or “murderer” stamped on their foreheads, while our two female protagonists suffer so much mental, physical and sexual abuse that it’s ludicrous. I’d be a fool if I were to omit the blowjob montage, which is twisted in a couple of ways. If that’s Valladares’ idea of comedy, I’d hate to see what his idea of horror would be.
When it comes to acting, our female protagonists might as well have been given one direction: scream a lot. There’s not a whole lot to their performances, with minimal character development other than the prologue at the beginning involving the murder of their mother and the incest. As for the men, it’s not hard to figure out that many of them are one-note scumbags even before you watch the film, so no need to waste time thinking about that. The film starts out mainly as an action film (if you can call rape and prostitution “action”), then veers into the horror realm with the cannibalism aspect, which ridiculous as it sounds, seems to fit into this tripped-out world that Valladares has created. Gorehounds and those in the need for that sort of brutality in their films will be able to glean something from this one.
The rest of us, however, will most likely be offended. I know that it’s one of those “well, DUH!” moments when it’s the sole purpose of a film of this nature to offend, but it’s just tiresome when you’re being lead from one atrocity on the screen to the next. That is, it would be if you weren’t so busy squirming in your seat. Valladares just seems content to bombard the viewer with disturbing imagery. Honestly, I didn’t get much entertainment out of seeing the parade of misogyny and men demonizing.
Much like I Spit On Your Grave 2, this is a one-off viewing for me. I’m all for brutality once in a while in my films, but an endless cycle of it tends to wear on the nerves and loses it’s entertainment value rather quickly. Whatever “comedy” you glean from this film is suspect, as I definitely didn’t see much to laugh at, no matter how dark it could get. But obviously, if you’re into a film like this, then you’ll get much more out of it than the rest of us. I’m still scrubbing myself in the shower, by the way.
Presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer looks decent for a modestly-budgeted film. Colours are a bit blown out, but this seems to be an intentional move by Valladares to help get the atmosphere across to the viewer. Other than that, whites are bright and black levels are great. Overall, it’s as good as you could want for a film like this.
The Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track matches the video quality nicely. Dialogue is clear and free of distortion, and is balanced with the sound effects, which come through in sickening detail. The rear channels also play into the atmosphere of the film during the more intense moments. It’s not the most enveloping mix, but it does the best it can with the budget.
First up is a Behind The Scenes featurette that clocks in at around twenty minutes, and is composed of production footage without any commentary or interviews. As such, it’s kind of hard to follow, though given that some of the scenes involve the gorier moments of the film and it’s all subtitled, it’s somewhat coherent.
Things are slightly better explained in a four-minute Interview with director Patricio Valladares, which was recorded for a Fantasia Festival screening of the film. Here, Valladares covers the basic themes of the film, its intent, and how he was approached by Michael Biehn to do the American remake.
Also included is an 8-page Collectible Booklet, which features an overview by Travis Crawford, as well as an updated interview with Valladares on the set of the remake.
Rounding things out is a reversible cover for the DVD case, showing alternate artwork for the film, and the film’s Theatrical Trailer.
Overall, it’s a nice package, though the extras could’ve used a bit more fleshing out, and a commentary would’ve been a nice accompaniment.
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