Scoot McNairy (Batman V Superman)
Anna Skelton (Solitary)
Andrew Hawley (Snow White and The Huntsman)
It all started with Blair Witch in ’99. Since then, ‘found footage’ and ‘handicam’-style films have become all the rage. There was the less-remembered ‘Last Broadcast’ which actually preceded Blair Witch but did not capture the imagination in the same way the viral marketing method pioneered by Haxan Films managed to. And since those early days, well-received efforts such as Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity have upped the budget but endeavoured to keep themselves to the same principles.
So, with these films now extremely common, it takes something a bit special to stand out. Sadly, nothing about ‘A Night in the Woods’ is special, and it blows several good chances to be a great film, instead ending up a bit of a mess of a production which could have been so much more. The story sees 3 ‘friends’ decide to go camping out in Dartmoor – the complete lack of explanation as to why they are going there is one mild flaw. A ‘sinister’ (contrived) element of risk is thrown in with a visit to an Irish pub and tales of horror from the area the intrepid 3 are aiming for. And after a very long and dragged-out first portion of the movie we finally end up on location for a night in the woods.
This film tries insanely hard to be Blair Witch, in Britain. Just like the earlier masterpiece it’s 3 friends isolated in the woods with inexplicable evil apparently descending upon them. And to its credit it does manage to create a semblance of tension approaching the crescendo of the story. But unfortunately the makers decided to throw in a whole bunch of bizarre red herrings which made no sense. They included revelatory back story but unfortunately none of it was remotely developed nor did it make any sense in context of the environment – it did not appear to affect anything. They also included a few moments which were from the eyes of certain characters. The whole point of these films is you only ever see from the view of the camera they are holding. As soon as you get an eye-view from a character who has no camera, it doesn’t work.
It was, as mentioned, also let horribly down by the unnecessarily long intro – the story took far too long to get going and created the criminal error of making every character dislikeable in the process. It’s not the worst cam film I have ever seen, but it was poorly-conceived and lacked sense and cohesion. Its forced and contrived nature let it down horribly, even if the acting was actually half decent.