DEEP IN THE WOODS
Director: Lionel Delplanque
Year of release: 2000
Country of origin: France
Running time: 84 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Not sure but I suspect DVD only
Tagline: "Don't go there alone".
Also known as: Promenons Nous Dans Les Bois
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: In the French woodland a group of five travelling actors are hired by a reclusive millionaire to perform a play as a present for his autistic grandson. The wealthy odd ball resides in a grand but isolated chateau with only his silent grandson and equally as eccentric groundskeeper for company.
After performing a play inspired by Little Red Riding Hood the actors stay overnight and soon begin to feel uneasy at the odd behaviour of their host who has taken what seems to be a romantic interest in one of the male actors. The unease only deepens when a policeman pops in to warn them that a rapist could be at large and possibly hiding himself somewhere within the vast grounds of the estate.
Once the millionaire is in bed and the gamekeeper out of the way for the night the actors decide to stay up partying until that is they find themselves being hunted by someone wearing the wolf costume from their act.
Good points: *This is a beautiful film to look at from the artistic way it is shot to the attractive cast to the stunning chateau where the action unfolds. Visually slick and accomplished from start to finish the director does a fine job in this area particularly when taking into consideration it was his debut feature. It’s very stylishly done and has a cultured artistic feel to it (helped along by the mere fact of it being French I suppose). It’s quite reminiscent of an older Giallo type film in the way it’s presented with good use of vivid and lush colours.
*The chateau where the story plays out is extremely lavish and decorative. It looks great both inside and out. Gothic and exotic it all appears very expensive looking which as well as impressing visually contributes to a taut atmosphere. The backdrop definitely adds to a growing sense of foreboding and unease. It’s the star of the show I’d say and makes for a fantastic setting.
*The wolf costume used by the killer is great and is easily one of the stronger animal costumes I’ve seen in the genre. It’s very well designed and quite elaborate and as with the chateau it seems like no expense was spared. I did feel that for such a top notch costume it was rather underutilised with us never really getting a prolonged or proper look at it. Having said that this more restrained approach certainly left me wanting more which is perhaps a good thing.
*All three of the trio of characters residing at the Chateau were all really effective and suitably odd and unsettling. I liked the peeping tom side of the gamekeeper Stephane and his interest in taxidermy which made me think of Norman Bates. The young boy Nicholas without saying anything or doing vey much manages to come across as something of a demonic figure. Well that might be going a bit far but he was quite scary anyway for a kid that barely did anything. My favourite though was the millionaire himself Axel De Fersen who was so cringe inducing yet so very watchable in his romantic overtures towards the much younger actor.
Bad Points: *The group of five actors I thought were absolutely terrible and really undid much of the good work outlined above. For me they are right up there as some of the most unlikeable protagonists I’ve come across in the genre. Splatter University is another one which is very bad in this area and Deep in the Woods I found to be on an equal footing. The way they behaved and their dialogue was weird and unnatural to me such as when the blonde guy fired the nail gun so close to his friends.
I also found there to be far too much sex going on within the group. It was almost as if they were involved in some sort of harem of had a weird open five way relationship going on between the lot of them.
Adding to the problems with the actors is that none of them had much back story so when they all start bickering between themselves it wasn’t completely clear why or who’s side to take. They all seemed unlikeable.
*There is a weird dreamlike quality to the film at times which I didn’t like. I found these parts to be hard to follow with examples being how some of the characters just disappear when walking through the woods at night and the couple of inexplicable scenes with Jeanne lying on a white background.
*Very minor spoiler: The end of the film was underwhelming to me so things didn’t finish on a positive note. Not so much the reveal of the killer as I don’t necessarily mind that being predictable but more so the manner in which he was dealt with by the survivors. It just wasn’t very memorable for me or exciting in any way.
Verdict: A classic case of style over substance, this very much looks the part but the great visuals come at the cost of the group of actors who I disliked so much they ruined the whole experience for me. They were unlikeable, underdeveloped and poorly written and leave the viewer with little reason to care about who lives and dies. On top of this the film is too dreamlike and surreal for my taste at times. It’s a shame because there are some good things going on aside from the obvious positive of the visuals such as the older characters and the wolf costume but ultimately the shortcomings sink the project.
If for whatever reason you want to watch a Little Red Riding Hood themed slasher then I would instead recommend Little Erin Merryweather which I thought was considerably better than this.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Axel’s Mother: Strangled with wire.
2)Mathilde: Head shoved into mirror and then drowned in the sink.
3)Jeanne: Shot with harpoon type weapon, then topples over high staircase bannister to the floor below.
4)Stephane: Shot through the neck with nail gun.
5)Blonde guy: Runs into some sort of ‘bed of spikes’ trap in the woods.
6)Policeman: Shot in the mouth.
7)Axel De Fersen: Set on fire and dies in garage explosion.