GIRL IN WOODS (2016)
Starring Juliet Reeves London, Jeremy London and Charisma Carpenter
Written and Directed by Jeremy Benson
Out Now on VOD
“After a tragic accident Grace is lost and alone in the smoky mountains. Grace’s struggle for survival is made more complicated by her troubled past. Battling the demons in her mind may be the only way to come out alive”.
Jim takes his girlfriend to a luxurious but isolated cabin in the woods, with the plan to propose. Grace is suffering from a mysterious past trauma, but with the help of medication, she is able to repress all this and live a relatively normal, if nightmare plagued life. Everything is going fine until, after hiking deep into the forest, a tragic accident leaves Grace lost and alone, without her medication, and with only a bottle for water and a rifle. As minutes turn to hours, and hours turn to days, Grace becomes terrorised by her own mind and memories, and must confront her demons, or be destroyed by them.
Watching Girl In Woods, I couldn’t help but be reminded of another film very popular (and rightly so) with horror fans from recent years. Indeed, as the film goes on, the more Girl In Woods acts as an unofficial prequel to this particular cult classic. I won’t divulge the title of the film, but guaranteed the horror loving readers of this website will feel it too.
Anyway, Girl In Woods.
It’s important going into this one that you don’t expect a gory exploitation flick, the new Wrong Turn or something. Take that expectation and throw it deep and far into the woods, because this flick ain’t it. Girl In Woods is a character study. Rather, it’s the definition of a character study, as we spend the entire running time examining every facet of Grace as she tries to survive. It just so happens to have some horrific elements, but until the last 5-10 minutes those elements are completely hidden.
Although directed with a disciplined flair by Benson and sporting very polished production values, Girl In Woods hinges entirely in the performance of Juliet Reeves-London. And she carries the weight of it very well, never once slipping into clichéd histrionics. She’s ably supported by Jeremy London in a small but pivotal and smartly used role, and Buffy alumnus Charisma Carpenter who is absolutely chilling in the many flashbacks.
A glaring issue in the film, probably my only gripe really, is the pacing. Girl In Woods moves at a glacial pace and even with a runtime of less than 90 minutes feels overlong. A good 15 minutes could have been chopped, one of two of the repetitive scenes of catching water and just wandering around looking glum. The film would have been just as effective if it had been tightened up that bit more.
But the payoff is worth the build up. Girl In Woods ends on a note that is simultaneously bleak, tragic and cathartic. Grace reaches an inevitable conclusion, one that the seed for was planted years before and buried by medication. Once it’s realized, and it brings to mind that other film, it’s pretty cool.
With bang on performances across the board and a powerful and gripping style and story, Girl In Woods ended up so much better than I expected it to be. Aside from a sluggish pace in parts and overly repetitive imagery on occasion, it’s a well made and thought provoking piece. I’d be intrigued to hear if Benson and company are planning some kind of spiritual sequel with the world they have created here. The character work planted would really make a more horrific sequel something else.