In 1965 budding bad girl Heather Faluso is in trouble once again for setting fire to a local neighborhood woods. With her crabby mother dead set on packing her off to private school to save her own social standing, the Faluso's pack up and head to the Falburn Academy. There is a problem however; while Heather's parents act and dress like the rich uppity type, in fact Mr. Faluso has some issues paying tuition. When Ms. Traverse, the school's dean, gives Heather the scholarship test she notices something special lurking deep within Heather and admits her despite the family's financial standing.
As Heather settles in she starts to notice mysterious and spooky happenings around the school such as voices from the woods and girls who disappear over night. Add to this a girl who is dead set on making Heather's life at Falburn miserable and Heather understandably has a rocky start to her new boarding school life. Despite all this, there is a strange twinkle in the eyes of the Falburn staff; has Heather stumbled upon something far darker than the stuffy old broads she originally feared?
Lucky McKee is a unique voice in today's era of horror. If you take his creepy debut "May", the man knows how to tell a spooky tale without having to rely on buckets of blood, music video jump cuts, or in-your-face jump scares. Falling more upon giving us the heebie jeebies with a mental angle, his work manages to stand out from the other movies surrounding his on the video store shelf. "The Woods" is no exception.
This sophomore effort never really reaches the heights of "May" however. "The Woods" falls prey to a slow pace and a rather predictable plot. I'm all for slow and creepy but there has to be a fine balance of suspense and dread. This time around we have a wee bit of suspense, a heavier dose of dread...it's just that the outcome is telegraphed early on.
The key to a creeping yarn that gives you goose bumps and makes you peer over your shoulder is mystery. There's nothing jumping out at me, but just what the hell is waiting for me at the end of this ride? When the mystery is telegraphed in the first twenty minutes of the story, there's not a whole lot of wonder left to the process. It's just a matter of crossing your legs until the next rest stop.
The story had potential. The basic plot was solid and enjoyable and made for an interesting setting had certain things unfolded in a different manner. What helped to make "The Woods" more enjoyable and the plot problems passable was the palpable atmosphere spread throughout the movie. From the ancient school placed far out in a forest, to the eerie ladies running the school, there is a heavy sense of dread throughout. Dark lighting and unhappy girls, all combined to add to the 'spookhouse' effect that is tacked on to this macabre institution.
In the end, this was a movie that I did not regret watching. Unfortunately I just found myself feeling a bit disappointed after his previous effort turned out so great. There is a spooky tale being told here but it has it's issues. Still, it's worth a watch for the atmosphere alone, as well as the cast.
Any movie listing Bruce Campbell on its credits is worthy of a few moments of your time. Granted this isn't the Bruce we all know and love, it's a more paternal Bruce; if nothing else, it shows the guy has some chops. Add some extra actors such as Patricia Clarkson and Angnes Buckner and you have some solid talent helping to prop up this sleepy scare fest.