The Woods (2006)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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Ranked #3,288
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Agnes Bruckner
Agnes Bruckner
Emma Campbell
Emma Campbell
Bruce Campbell
Bruce Campbell
Patricia Clarkson
Patricia Clarkson
Lauren Birkell
Lauren Birkell
Review by Chad
Added: October 24, 2006
I've been waiting to see Lucky McKee's follow-up to May for the last couple of years, but it really started to seem like it would never find its way onto video store shelves. There'd be rumors of a theatrical release, and then - silence for a few months. Word would get out that a new edit was underway, which would be followed by a DVD release in three or four months, and then - silence for a few months. It's going to be premiering at so-and-so festival next month, but wait - no, cancel that. Indeed, things didn't look too good for it, but that fateful day has arrived. Was it worth the wait?

Heather (Agnes Bruckner) has been a bit of a bad girl. When she sets a fire behind her house, her parents decide that putting her into a boarding school is their only hope of straightening her out. They - Joe (Bruce Campbell) and Alice (Emma Campbell) - eventually meet up with a woman who suggests Falburn Academy, and faster than you can say "Britney Spears", our leading lady is decked out in a schoolgirl uniform with all of the other girls in this school. However, it doesn't take long for Heather to realize that something isn't quite right at this middle-of-nowhere learning establishment; one of the other students (Rachel Nichols) is almost obsessive about tormenting her, the headmistress (Patricia Clarkson) seems to be more than a little crazy, and the one person (Lauren Birkell) that Heather can trust seems to be fearfully hiding something from everyone. There's also the little matter of Heather's horrific dreams revolving around axe-murders and mayhem, and let's not forget the stories about witches in the woods that the girls tell one another in hushed tones. There's more, of course, but this is one of those films that you really can't describe without spoiling something, so I'll leave it at that.

First things first: if you're looking for a gruesome horror along the lines of the aforementioned May or a creature-feature along the lines of Sick Girl, or if you'd like to pick up a bone-chilling horror film filled with jump-scares and a huge body count, well - you're going to be disappointed, to be blunt. Although this film is technically a horror, it focuses more on the character development and the story rather than delivering the scares from scene three onwards. We've seen this style in his other films, true, but it's taken to an extreme here; with the exception of the slowly telling the back-story of the events we're about to witness, nothing remotely related to the horror genre happens until the last ten minutes of the film. This style of horror certainly isn't for everyone (just look at the reviews), but I enjoyed it.

A solid chunk of the running time is spent on building Heather's character, as well as showing how she interacts with the students and teachers at this school. After that, we slowly start to learn about the history of this school and the surrounding woods, and after we've went through all of this, we find ourselves well past the halfway point of the film. Most of the rest of the movie focuses on detailing what we've learned about said history thus far, and finally, we wind up with an ending that ties up all of the loose ends. I'm not going to reveal those last two plot points, of course, but the point of this paragraph is that you should be prepared for some serious storytelling as opposed to humongous body counts, and if you can't handle that, leave this DVD on the shelf.

With all of that in mind, why did I - your faithless reviewer, a man whose wet dreams revolve around decapitations and spraying arteries - enjoy this? It's quite simple, really: McKee knows how to tell a story and how to pace things for maximum effect. When you know what makes the lead heroine tick and what she is capable of, watching the final showdown is much more effective than if she was simply the redhead (or "fire-crotch" as the other girls call her) that looks good in a short skirt. The "root" of all the evil is eventually revealed, of course, and it may be hit or miss depending on what you're looking for in a horror. If you're expecting the "OMG it was my dad!" type of twist ending that has become the norm lately, or if you're expecting a long-haired little girl to pop out of a television at some point, you're not going to like the end revelations. If, however, you can watch it with an open mind and appreciate someone trying something relatively new with the genre, this is definitely one to check out.

If you're still reading this and what I've said thus far hasn't turned you off to the idea of giving this one a watch, pick it up. It won't win any awards for scaring the shit out of you and there are no billion dollar death sequences, but if you'd like to invest some time in a horror film that focuses on the story (and does a damned fine job of it), then there's no reason not to pop this one into your player. Besides, who could pass up the opportunity to see Bruce Campbell going apeshit with an axe once again? 8/10.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 10/25/2006, 02:25 PM
I saw this film almost two years ago at a test screening and hated it. I watched it a couple of days ago and still hated it. Lucky McKee has so much potential as a director, and I loved "May", but this film was an exercise in boredom and frustration. This is as close to a bad "Suspiria" remake as a film can get, and it has NOTHING on Dario Argento -- NOTHING. "The Woods" is a waste of time...and Bruce Campbell. 3/10.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 11/07/2006, 11:52 PM
I think I'll agree with bluemeanie here. Bruce Campbell, not Lucky McKee, was why I picked this one up. It was just like an Argento flick... only it was boring as hell.
Cryptorchild #3: Cryptorchild - added 11/23/2006, 05:31 PM
While I am a big fan of May, I just didn't care too much for The Woods. Being a big fan of May, I was looking forward to the next Lucky McKee film. When I watched it, I didn't really think it was anything special. I'm glad Lucky ventured out and done something comletely different from May, but I just didn't enjoy the film as much as I thought I would. Even Bruce Campbell couldn't pick this movie up for me, which is just a sad thing for me to say. 3/10.
Tristan #4: Tristan - added 11/09/2007, 01:58 AM
May was amazing, and Lucky McKee is an extremely talented director. Oddly enough, I couldn't get into this one. Bruce Campbell totally stole the show, and even though he wasn't the reason I picked it up (I didn't even know he was in it), he was the reason I bothered to finish it. So for his performance, this gets a 4/10.
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