Deep in the Woods (2000)
Director: Lionel Delplanque
Five actors head to an isolated castle to perform â€śRed Riding Hoodâ€ť for this rich dudeâ€™s autistic son. When they get there, three problems arise: 1- The rich dude and his son are a little whacked out 2- the cops are searching for a rapist and it seems heâ€™s hanging around the castle 3- someone wearing a big bad wolf costume is trying to kill them. Vive la France!
This film is available with English subtitles and its French title is "Promenons Nous Dans les Boisâ€ť
The French finally hop on the slasher bandwagon and it's mostly good news for us genre fans. â€śDeep in the Woodsâ€ť is a great mix and I lapped it up like a lesbian at a sushi bar. First off, the director goes nuts with the style and Iâ€™m a sucker for that kind of stuff (loved the â€śthrough the keyholeâ€ť shots). The first hour of this film flows effortlessly with brilliant camera work that ties everything together and the images have an early â€śArgentoâ€ť-like vibe to them. The dead on locations also help and are perfect fodder for the directorâ€™s excessive visual tendencies. The isolated castle is very eerie and brings a strong claustrophobic feel to the film. The dark woods seem endless and gave me the willies. The director has a blast with both killing grounds.
The flick also has one of the best set ups Iâ€™ve seen in a while. I had no idea where this film was going and thatâ€™s always thrilling in itself. The opening murder sequence reminded me of â€śDeep Redâ€ť, the autistic kid creeped me out big time and Francois Berleandâ€™s (Axel) delicious performance really made it happen for me. What a show! One thing that sets this film apart from its American counterparts, is its very strong sexual energy. Everybody seems like they want to f**k everybody else. Thereâ€™s lots of sexual tension going around, some homosexual undertones and a scene that could have easily gotten to the â€śgang bangâ€ť stage.
The filmâ€™s genre influences are obvious but well used. We get a little bit of â€śPsychoâ€ť (the peeping thang), a pinch of â€śScreamâ€ť (the killer on the phone) and a dash of â€śBlair Witchâ€ť / â€śEvil Deadâ€ť (the creepy woodsâ€¦the director even reproduces the famous demon POV shot from Evil Dead in his own way). Then you have the â€śRed Riding Hoodâ€ť theme thatâ€™s constant throughout the flick. If itâ€™s not the nursery rhymes then itâ€™s the killer wearing the wolf costume. Once the identity of the killer is revealed the big bad wolf analogy makes lots of sense and had me grinning with delight.
The film does fail on a couple of aspects though. First off, all of the teen characters are shamefully underdeveloped. In a way that increases the suspicion level because any of these people could be the killer, but on the other hand, it doesnâ€™t really give us anybody to root for. They all come across as very self-centered. They discard the death of a friend in the blink of an eye and cheat on their respective mates as if it was a sport. Nobody really cares about anybody here and that made it hard for me to care too.
I also didnâ€™t dig the inclusion of the cop character. Heâ€™s in the movie for about two scenes and is only there to be a suspect or a plot device. Itâ€™s too obvious. My last pet peeve is the ending. Much like â€śAnatomieâ€ť, this flick feels the need to copy the US formula in its last 30 minutes instead of continuing down its somewhat original path. The even flow of the first hour is broken, the action gets kind of choppy and the directing choices become questionable. The unveiling of the killer is ok but his damn monologue to explain his over-complicated motive did baffle my pointy dumb arse. Arrow needs to brush up on his Frenchâ€¦
Overall, â€śDeep in the Woodsâ€™ is a stylized slasher treat with a French aftertaste. The script doesnâ€™t measure up to the directing but the whodunit kept me guessing as the French spin really gave the familiar conventions a fresh glow. I had lots of fun with this one, Promenez vous avec moiâ€¦.
Any flick with a nail gun in it usually means good red times. We get nails in the throat, acid in face, a wonderful booby trap kill and lots more.
Clotilde Coureauâ€™s (Sophie) constant laughing during tense moments got on my nerves. Not a good choice. Clement Sibonie (Mathieu) does fine with his thinly written part and lets his good looks do most of the actingâ€¦it works! Speaking of good looks, chicks will love Vincent Lecoeur (Wilfried). Heâ€™s a dead ringer for â€śRyan Phillipeâ€ť, is fit and is a master of the art of brooding. Maude Buquet (Mathilde) has great presence but doesnâ€™t have much of a part. Alexia Stresi (Jeanne) looks great naked and does sign language well (sheâ€™s deaf in the film)â€¦thatâ€™s it. Francois Berleand (Axel) cracked me up. He has a blast with the part and he never stopped surprising me. The man really gets into his role! Denis Lavant (Stephane) is one creepy looking dude and he plays that up big time. NOTE: My biggest problem with the teen characters in this film was that I had no idea where any of them were coming from. But at least that negative point helped keep me guessing as to whom the killer wasâ€¦
T & A
Ya gotta love the French! Lots of breasts, female frontal nudity (itâ€™s true the French donâ€™t trim) and even a lesbian scene. The ladies get Vincent Lecoeurâ€™s behindâ€¦enjoyâ€¦
Delplanque really has his shite together for the first hour with lots of POV shots, slow motion, great use of the locations and groovy shots. In that first hour, every thing gels together perfectly. But then the script wanders into â€śtypical US conventionsâ€ť and the directing drops down a few notches in quality. The last 15 minutes felt kinda of choppy to me, especially if you compare them with the first hour. On a whole thoughâ€¦I was very impressedâ€¦
The score is very varied. It goes from choral music to a more techno kind of vibe to classical (piano). Arrow dug.
Distributor: Artisan Entertainment
IMAGE: We get the option of viewing the film in Full Frame Standard 1.33-1 ratio or Widescreen anamorphic 2.35-1ratio. Since the flick is very visual, I suggest you hit the Widescreen so can you see it the way that it was intended to be seen. The image here is crisp, the colors vibrant and the grain non-existent. Good stuff!
SOUND: We get a English or French 5.0 Dolby Digital. You should watch the film in French if you understand the language, the English translation fails to reproduce the rich flavor of the French dialogue. The sound is clear and so is the dialogue. We also get a French/English subtitles option.
EXTRAS: I wasn't blown away by the extras...
Commentary: For some reason cult director Brian Yuzna ("Faust", "Return Of The Living Dead 3") gives the commentary here. I assume that's because French director Lionel Delplanque doesn't speak English. Yuzna goes by notes that Delplanque wrote down and also gives us his two cents on specific shots or his opinion of the film. Overall, it's ok but I don't get why it wasn't Delplanque talking. They could've subtitled his commentary. Kind of an odd choice to have another director do the commentary for the film.
Filmmakers filmography: We get some info on director Lionel Delplanque, Annabelle Perichon (writer) and the 2 producers of the film. It's standard and somewhat interesting.
Cast Biographies: We get info on all of the film's unknown stars.
Theatrical Trailer: We get the English theatrical trailer. The trailer is slick but gives way too much away. Don't watch the trailer before watching the film.
Original French Trailer: The French trailer is very similar to the English one but it has nudity (those horny French people, gotta love them). This trailer also gives too much away about the flick. How about not ruining who lives and who dies in a trailer next time??
Photo Gallery: Here we get a couple of stills from the film and on-set pictures (with the director present). This extra is ok but I would've liked more pictures (we get like 5).
Any fan of the film will appreciate this DVD (I know I did, I dug the movie), the menu is very sharp and the quality is pretty solid. Just don't buy it for the extras.
The film is definitely an exercise in style over substance. I mean, at the core of it all this is just another slasher flick but the visual padding and the foreign approach to familiar conventions made this one a fun ride for me. The French can now add slasher films to the list of things they excel at. Bread, wine, orgies and slashersâ€¦sound right to me!
This flick won the Grand Prize Of European Fantasy Film (silver) at the â€śCatalonian International Film Festivalâ€ť.