In 2003 director Lucky McKee put out a quiet and little-seen horror film called May. After much prodding, I finally watched the thing, and, well... that was what the fuss was all about?
McKee returned earlier this year with a follow-up, another "thinking man's" horror film that didn't garner the same attention. It barely got a theatrical release (which I could convince none of my critics to go see), and I can't find any reports of its box office gross aside from a blunt "$0."
Now that the film's hitting DVD, I see why. Enticing you with its gaggle of handsome teenage girls on its cover, The Woods doesn't immediately make its intentions known. One assumes it will be a serial killer affair or a "which girl has gone psycho" movie, but it's neither. To put it bluntly, The Woods is about just what its title says it is: It's about trees. Killer trees.
Not since The Guardian have killer trees been so unscary and unhorrifying. Here's the setup: A 1960s pyromaniac Heather (Agnes Bruckner, bored throughout this production) is sent to a remote private school for a little attitude adjustment. It's clear that the school, headmistressed by Patricia Clarkson, is hardly Montessori, but it's hard to tell exactly why. After a long series of typical girls-school squabbles (wherein Heather is branded "Firecrotch" due to her red hair), some of the meeker students start to vanish. Yet school stays open while "the authorities" search for them, despite the fact that there are only a few dozen kids enrolled. Two disappearing makes a huge dent in the cafeteria.
When Heather's dad (Bruce Campbell, who has about five minutes of screen time) appears to rescue his daughter, the film turns psycho-bizarre, as we realize the school is not at all what we thought it was. You see, we thought it was just a school run by a bunch of loonies, but it's really a school run by killer trees. To try to explain what happens next (which involves Heather balancing things like pencils on their ends and people coughing up twigs and leaves) would not only "spoil" what's left of the picture, but you probably wouldn't believe me. The Woods is complete nonsense for the latter half of the film, which is a nice change only because it's so boring before then.
I wish I could say something positive about the film but there's nothing here to merit even passing attention on late-night cable. The actors obviously don't understand the material any more than we do, nor do they seem to care. I'd love to think they did it for the paycheck, but considering The Woods' budget, I doubt those were very large, either. Skip it.