Horror films set in the woods are tricky. It’s all about atmosphere, and making a vast expanse of wilderness seem suffocating or claustrophobic as the typically cocky humans slowly realize that nature has its own agenda. Adam Wingard’s new film The Woods is not breaking new ground with its found-footage style and camping-trip-gone-awry plotline, but watch the trailer and try not to think of either the opening of The Shining or Deliverance as a helicopter-mounted camera glides over pine-covered hills to a languid, creepy remake of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”
My preference is the latter film from 1972, in which a group of city-slicker weekend warriors take a boys’ trip to the Georgia woods, only to be stalked by hill people and at the mercy of a raging river as their gauntlet back to civilization. IMDB lists it as an adventure/drama/thriller, but come on: that unending rumble of the rapids; the stillness of the trees moving from tranquil to terrifying in an instant; the burden of slower, more useless members of the party slowing their escape, the ravaging of the landscape by machinery set against the assault on the men. As the men get picked off by unseen forces and their desperation and paranoia heightens, the beauty of the unspoiled Southern wilderness (soon to be flooded by a dam) only adds to the terror. Scant details have been released for The Woods, but if you can stomach the shaky camerawork, this looks like scary fun.
The Woods is scheduled to come out in September, which is not a strong month for premieres, but I’m hoping it will be a welcome surprise. Brad Miska of Bloody Disgusting cites the film’s producers past work on horror hits such as The Ring, Paranormal Activity, and You’re Next as bolstering its credo, and I’m inclined to agree.