STREAM QUEEN: the woods just keep calling me back

You never know what you’ll find when you watch a movie about people heading into the wilderness. So which of these four films were worth the trip?

(THE DEVIL’S FOREST TO) WOOD WITCH: THE AWAKENING (2020)

So much of this found footage film is filler of The Blair Witch Project variety. Two couples heading to the woods for a weekends excursion hear about a legend of a witch in the woods that was turned into a tree.

They ask around, get enough information to locate the tree, and explore the woods for a while.

When they find the tree, they read a spell to release the witch…and the film suddenly cuts to them running around the woods in terror. I was so annoyed that after all that foolish footage, we weren’t going to even see anything!

But the film saves itself and becomes a fun, cheesy SyFy style horror, with the tree witch coming to life, chasing after them, and shooting green laser magic at them.

The final girl even delivers some funny lines as she battles the witch tree while rockin’ music serves as the soundtrack. There’s even a promise of a sequel.

BEYOND THE WOODS (2018)

When a group of friends gathers at an isolated vacation home, talk turns immediately to a dark legend of a nearby sinkhole.

Although we never see the sinkhole, it works in the film’s favor. We feel the presence of the sinkhole—or perhaps something that came out of it. This director clearly studied old school cabin in the woods horror films, because we always sense something is out there just waiting to strike.

There also seems to be something inside the house. The film relies mostly on building tension and suspense, uses one unnecessary dream sequence (considering we see what was in the dream minutes later in reality), and even got me with the most obvious jump scare ever.

While there’s some slowdown in the middle of the movie, I like that it is like an odd mashup of Evil Dead and Friday the 13th. The final act has people getting possessed and a fricking killer with an axe! Awesome. A double dose of throwbacks in one entertaining flick.

30 MILES FROM NOWHERE (2018)

You know a cabin in the woods movie means business when it begins with an overhead view of a car on a road winding through the woods to its destination. At least it should mean business, but I can’t even believe what transpires (or doesn’t) after that opening.

30 Miles From Nowhere is painful to watch if you’re expecting either a cabin in the woods horror film or a horror comedy, as this film is labeled. Most of what passes for comedy here is the constant campy scream reactions to faux scares, and that kind of humor only works a few times before it needs some backup comedy.

The plot finds a group of college friends “reuniting” due to a funeral. Despite their loss, they immediately start taking jabs at each other’s lives, so I felt no love for any of them. But I continued watching.

When they arrive at the house in the woods and someone references The Big Chill, it’s more a warning than a meta joke, because most of this film plays out like that film rather than delivering any actual horror or suspense. Any scary moments are not clearly defined as real or imagined, on top of which they aren’t even related, so there’s no telling what is actually going on or what we might possibly need to be afraid of.

In the end it’s all about the group discovering the truth of exactly how their friend died. Carrie Preston of True Blood steals the show with her weird performance, and when she gets a monologue that’s about fifteen minutes long, it’s almost as if she’s saying, “I spent years blending into the background as a waitress in a bar on a hit show, so step aside bitches, because I’m about to eat the scenery.”

BARRICADE (2012)

The director of zomcom Fido goes in a completely different direction with this film…and steers right into a snow mound. 

Eric McCormack stars as a man who brings his daughter and son to a cabin in the woods for Christmas a year after the loss of his wife.

Immediate faux tension builds (the son is missing! Oh…he’s in the shed) and flashbacks of the wife’s death paralleling every move McCormack makes in the present are red flags about just how uninspired the film is going to be.

Shadows, knocking, the kids panicking, the dad seeming to suffer from hallucinations…it seems like either a lifeless ghost story or a case of grief sparking deadly delusions movie. But don’t expect to find out which, because the film keeps negating the truth it reveals right up to the bitter end.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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