Rootwood (2020)

A film producer reaches out to two podcasters to get them to shoot a documentary about murder and a demon in a wooded area near Los Angeles. They head to the location to gather footage and evidence, bringing along a photographer they know for help. Once there, they get exactly what they were looking for and maybe a bit more.

Written by Mario von Czapiewski and directed by Marcel Walz, Rootwood is kind of a found footage film with some very decently shot footage mixed in with traditional footage. The story here is more about the people and what they are investigating then about the finding of said footage, giving the film the liberty of mixing both types of footage. The story here is as expected for the majority of the film’s run time and them it goes in an interesting direction. The story itself is fairly simple and something that’s been seen before in other forms, but the way it’s written and brought to the screen make it a more interesting and fun to watch found footage film than the majority of hundreds of these that have come out since the Blair Witch Project created all its doppelgangers. Here the film is well executed and it’s a decent entry in the subgenre from the point of view of the story and the direction.

The cast in these kinds of films usually works best when the cast is mostly unknown, which most of the people involved will be to people who never watch horror films, but for indie horror fans, the leads are all familiar with Tyler Gallant, Elissa Dowling, and Sarah French playing the trio who goes to the woods and genre queen Felissa Rose playing the hiring producer. All of them do great work here in terms of working with their parts. Dowling got a bit odd in the start, but her acting choices evened out before the end of the first third and she became a strong leading lady. Supporting her and doing the scared girl really well is Sarah French who shows a natural ability to being the girl who antagonizes at times, annoys at others, and is completely scared out of her mind for some very important scenes. Tyler Gallant plays his part mostly cool and just with the right amount of variation. Felissa Rose plays her part of the producer well, but the choice of the accent seems odd and a bit off at times. This may not have been up to her, so it’s easy to let it go. Her work here is fun to watch as she’s been in most of her recent films.

The film’s cinematography is surprisingly not all that annoying. Yes, there are some scene that look to have been shot by a 6 year old given a camera, but those end pretty early one and then things move from handheld cellphone cameras to actual cameras (GoPros, smaller devices, and the traditional types) to make the film a lot easier to watch even when things to down the proverbial rabbit hole. The work by Thomas Rist is good here and fits the film and its story really well. Accompanying this is the score by Klaus Pfreundner which unfortunately falls into what can be called generic soundtrack music. It’s decent, but it’s not particularly special sadly. However, some of the decisions as to where to put the score and when to keep things quiet are very well done, showing the power of sound and lack thereof.

Rootwood is a fun found footage type film that even those who don’t love the sub-genre (like this reviewer) can enjoy. The performances sell the film and its story, making the viewer want to watch the film fully. A few things will require suspension of disbelief, but they are not all that egregious overall, so they are easy to get past.  Overall, this is an enjoyable film that’s a quick and easy watch.