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Rated: R for graphic violence, torture, adult language, and sexual themes.
Genre: Supernatural Horror Thriller Drama
Directed By: Lucky McKee
Running Time: 1:27
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 9/10/06
DVD Features:



As with all talent, Lucky McKee was screwed by the studios, big time. What was once the talk of the horror circuit, “The Woods” was pushed back in its release date, then relegated to a limited release, then pushed back further and further, disappeared from the US, there were talks that we’d never see McKee’s second offering, and then it returned only to become “Straight to Video” fodder. McKee’s first film “May” was a demented and utterly sadistic piece of dark horror comedy that focused on the mind of a lonely tortured girl.

“May” was a hit with most horror fans, and McKee earned his clout and then, as all the artists do, was taken for granted by the studios. “The Woods,” McKee’s second film is another twisted tale involving the sick minds of women, and delves into the psyches of girls both old and young, and bears shades of “Whispering Corridors” and “Suspiria.” With a cast of Patricia Clarkson, Bruce Campbell, and Agnes Bruckner, respectively, it’s a damn shame “The Woods” won’t get much attention beyond horror fans, and curious video renters with a two for one card. Because McKee is on his game here, and my expectations for “The Woods” were met above and beyond.

“The Woods” is set on a beautiful yet creepy mansion that plays the role of a boarding school for young girls. The school is a posh institution with the usual quirks and devices; bitchy girls, the outcasts, strict teachers, lesbian undertones, and tension by the barrel full. The set pieces behind McKee’s sophomore effort are beautiful resembling more of a mausoleum than a school in the end. The lovely Agnes Bruckner plays Heather, a young girl who is forced to go to the school thanks to her hobby as a pyromaniac, and finds herself in a heaping helping of trouble. Set in the pastoral backdrop of the early sixties, the world in and around these woods is a morbid juxtaposition only McKee is capable of, and McKee doesn’t go for gore this time around.

“The Woods” is based more around build-up and mounting tension rather than torn limbs and amputation. Those who adored “May” for its carnage won’t expect the turn around from McKee whose story telling is much more low-key and understated. Agnes Bruckner’s second outing into horror is much better and memorable this time as the bitchy and somewhat snide Heather who rebels against the school, and now must find out how important a role she plays there. In spite of the mysterious goings on at the school, Heather’s number one motive is to get kicked out, and she finds there’s something more for her there.

Patricia Clarkson is all kinds of menacing here as the school’s cold headmaster, and Bruce Campbell is fun as Heather’s put upon father who decides to get his daughter out of the school if it’s the last thing he does. “The Woods” will have definite replay value for those who find novelty in McKee’s direction, and he adds a very distinct flavor to his films, and that flavor is definitely in “The Woods.” The mix of dark comedy, and demented horror is well orchestrated and his moody piece is worth watching.

Sadly, though we’re told by the characters that school just doesn’t let the students leave and that there’s no escape, we never get enough of a sense of that throughout the film. Ross doesn’t fully explore the cruel machinations within and beyond the school, enough thus we’re never given enough of a tense example of what will happen should the girls decide to venture beyond it. And Clarkson is very underused here making only small ineffective appearances to remind us that she’s the villain and only is able to shine in the climax, but by then the disappointment sinks in.

McKee doesn’t take enough of an advantage of the actress’s talents, and it’s disappointing to say the least. Ross makes a point of defying logic and sometimes enlisting plot holes just to move the plot along, and viewers will find some instances hard to swallow. Ross rips off a scene directly from “The Craft,” and then proceeds with some plot holes. What was the deal with white I-Pod earphones? It’s 1965, isn’t it? What kind of cop goes off on a one man hunt for three girls in a large area of woods? Is he the only cop available? How come no one noticed he’d been missing? It’s questions like that that make “The Woods” pretty flawed in the end.

McKee’s second outing isn’t a perfect one, but then again, neither was “May.” While there are certain plot holes that require the viewer put logic on hold, and scenes that lift from other stories, “The Woods” is a very good horror film with great performances, a tight story, and atmosphere that will keep audiences salivating. Support McKee’s film and purchase or rent it when it’s released.

  • The voice of the woods is played by McKee favorite Angela Bettis.




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