DIRECTOR Richard Parry WRITER Richard Parry STARS Scoot McNairy; Anna Skellern; Andrew Hawley CINEMA 7 September
Loosely basing itself on a perceived supernatural incident experienced by director Richard Parry, A Night in the Woods is one of the better found-footage offerings, due to some real effort to instil intrigue and subplot, concepts sadly often missing in this subgenre.
A couple, Kerry and Brody, are picking up her cousin, Leo, for a camping trip on Dartmoor. On arrival, they learn of the local legend of a hunter that seeks sinners, and are warned to not camp. Thus, the story tells itself as the edited footage found after their disappearance. So far, so uninspired, but the film has some tricks up its sleeve.
Tensions are apparent from the beginning, Kerry irritated with her partner’s constant filming, while there is friction between the men, Brody clearly a suspicious, insecure person. A taut atmosphere has been effectively created, with some possible red herrings added to keep the viewer pondering a possible outcome; at this stage, there are a number of options. This in itself is refreshing for the subgenre. As the film goes on, these tensions are emphasised by drip-feeding of subplot, revealing more about the characters, one particular little twist genuinely surprising.
All well and good, however it all leads to an ultimately unsatisfying climax. It’s not until relatively late that the supernatural element is introduced, which is what lets A Night in the Woods down; so much work has gone into questioning the characters’ motives, this desired ambiguity flounders, the balance off-kilter. It is also a little tiresome that, when this strand come in, it be so heavily influenced by The Blair Witch Project, there is reason to wonder if it is intended as homage.
Regardless, A Night in the Woods is certainly a reasonable effort, to be commended for at least attempting a real story. Praise must also be given for some very good acting, Scoot McNairy particularly good as the slightly unhinged Brody. Many are unable to carry off a completely improvised script, however this trio are more than competent, creating believable characters. Overall, it is a highly welcome change to watch found-footage courtesy of some talent.