A Night in the Woods

Dartmoor’s answer to The Blair Witch Project? Tom Leins spends A Night In The Woods

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A Night in the Woods
A Night in the Woods: set in Dartmoor Wistman’s Wood

In A Night In The Woods, what is envisioned as a relaxing weekend away at one of Dartmoor’s most distinctive locations rapidly takes a turn for the worse, when a combination of fraught sexual tension and ghost story-fuelled paranoia infects the already uneasy relationship between jealous Brody (Scoot McNairy, Killing Them Softly), his repressed girlfriend Kerry (Anna Skellern, Siren) and her charismatic ‘cousin’ Leo (Andrew Hawley, Ginger & Rosa). As night falls, an already torrid situation descends into chaos, and the hapless trio are forced to question whether or not there are dark forces at work…

Directed by Richard Parry, a former freelance cameraman with experience working in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones, A Night In The Woods is an undeniably intriguing prospect, and the presence of Scoot McNairy, who impressed in the inventive micro-budget horror flick Monsters, offers a neat hook for genre fans.

However, the ‘found footage’ angle feels tired straight away, and the constant presence of Brody’s video camera is likely to annoy the viewer as much as it antagonises Kerry and Leo. Even worse, the attempts at teasing out the back-story via Brody’s stash of stalker-ish home movies feels clumsy and ill-advised.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the location, Wistman’s Wood – which is widely regarded as the most haunted place on Dartmoor – has variously been home to pagan rituals, bloodthirsty hell-hounds and venomous snake-pits over the years – depending on who you believe. Unfortunately, Parry’s film avoids any overt references to such things, favouring a more enigmatic approach.

The evocative setting – famed for its stunted, distorted trees and moss-covered boulders – offers an ominous presence throughout, and some early injections of local colour also have a certain charm, but as the film edges towards its conclusion, too much of the shock factor is derived from the jagged editing, rather than the action itself.

Although it is far better than Parry’s last feature film, the dodgy 2001 Human Traffic knock-off South West 9, A Night In The Woods never satisfactorily emerges from Blair Witch’s imposing shadow.

A Night In The Woods is out now on DVD from Vertigo Films.