Reviewed by: JimmyO
David Bryant, Sebastian Smith, Richard Stiles
John Samuel Worsey
What's it about
When four friends decide to head off into the woods to escape the big city, they run into a strange woman who claims her boyfriend disappeared. But once this stranger arrives and one of their own vanishes, it is clear that their only chance for survival is to get away… but what is it that is waiting in the shadows? You’ll have to find out for yourself.
Is it good movie?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I love horror films that take place deep in the woods as bad stuff happens. Yet this sort of, sub-genre doesn’t always work. Probably more times than not it doesn’t, yet I still look forward to the ride. With co-writers and directors David Bryant, Sebastian Smith and Richard Stiles putting emphasis on mood and atmosphere, their feature Dead Wood is surprisingly strong. The lead actors are far from typical when it comes to this genre and the less is more approach happens to work more often than not. While it feels a bit like The Blair Witch Project without the shaky cam, it sustains itself as a eerie little thriller. And most importantly, it keeps you guessing and doesn’t necessarily answer all the questions, leaving you with a personal experience as opposed to a flavor of the month slasher film.
While the ghostly shenanigans begin similar to other films of this ilk, you know, the getting stuck in the woods and one by one friends mysteriously vanish thing. But we don’t see what happens to the friends as they vanish until much later as the story progresses. It also creates a mystery as a strange woman shows up telling this group of buddies that her boyfriend disappeared. Once Ketsy (Nina Kwok) arrives to stir things up with the gang, there is something definitely wrong with this picture. But the answers are not so simple necessarily, and it left me contemplating what the f*ck was going on. And that for me is a good thing. It is a simple story but it is also very shaded and dark leaving some thought as to the why without feeling the need to dumb it down for the audience.
I was impressed at how succinct this single feature directed by three British fellows turned out to be. It seems that there could have been a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, but it never strays away from the story. Yet again, they made a very smart decision with the casting. Fergus March, Emily Juniper, John Samuel Worsey and Rebecca Craven had the chops to make sympathetic characters. I especially liked Worsey and Craven as they are both much different than The CW-ish inspired casting in most American horror films. Let’s just say that they aren’t model thin, and they come across as believable people in a terrifying situation. This is a good and creepy old fashioned horror film, with a satisfying enough conclusion.
With all the good, there are many folks that may not love this flick as it takes a bit of time to get started. This is a slow moving slice of horror that may bother some audiences and it doesn’t follow the trend of having a good scare every ten minutes. It spends an awful lot of time exploring the relationships between the four, and the dynamic of what happens when Ketsy is thrown into the mix. But with that said, when it starts to become clear that something bad is happening, we are witness to some thrilling and chilling moments that will have you glued to the screen. Dead Wood may take patience for some viewers, but it is nevertheless a worthwhile horror experience.
Video / Audio
Dead Wood is a smart and satisfying horror thriller that is scary without going for cheap scares and an overload of gore. It may take some time to get to the badness that is going down deep in the woods, but once there, it offers up a couple of chilling sequences. How very nice to see what could have been a cliché filled outing, turns into an original and spooky tale of being lost in the woods.