Dead Wood (2007)

Dead Wood (2007)

4 Friends. 1 Stranger. No Hope

Four friends looking to escape the madness of the city head out into the woods for a peaceful camping trip. However events take a turn for the worst when a cold and frightened girl turns up at their camp site looking for her boyfriend. From then on, the idyllic weekend turns into a nightmare as the friends are stalked by a deadly force.

 

I got just a little taste of The Blair Witch Project when I had finished watching this. Whether that’is a good thing or a bad thing obviously depends on whether you liked The Blair Witch Project or not. For me it was a bit ho-hum and the same can be said about Dead Wood. It doesn’t do an awful lot in eighty-five minutes and isn’t really engrossing enough to warrant a repeat viewing. But there are one or two signs that some of the people involved here have some talent and a bigger budget may have helped matters dramatically.

It also helps that this is a British film which means that we do our own thing and don’t go with the times simply to cash-in on current trends. Torture porn is where it’s at the moment so it’s nice to see the UK horror scene is bucking the trend and just making whatever horror films it wants instead of rehashing Hostel or Saw like so many American filmmakers are content to do.

With a reasonably short running time, you’d expect the film to kick in pretty quickly but after the inevitable opening death scene to set the stall, the film drags its heels for what seems like forever. The characters trek off through the woods and the film is padded out by plenty of wildlife shots of weasels and deer. There’s even the token ‘we’ve got no mobile phone signal’ moment which every modern horror set in the middle of nowhere has decided to include. The characters seem very unnatural as if they were told to improvise their dialogue on the spot instead of rehearsing a script. You don’t really get to feel for any of them so when they start to disappear, you don’t miss them. Not a great deal happens even when the first person goes missing. They just wander around the woods aimlessly looking for a way out. I know it’s set in the woods but did they have to be walking/running through at almost every given moment?

Even when the ‘action’ kicks in the force starts picking them off one-by-one, the film never seems to have an urgency to pick up the pace. The story doesn’t really go into much detail about what is going on so you’re almost left to think for yourselves. Looking at it, Dead Wood just doesn’t get you involved in the film at all. There are no major hooks. The story doesn’t do a lot. The characters are just bland and dull. Suddenly the short running time of eighty-five minutes turns into a gruelling marathon of endurance and whether you can last until the end before you give up.

Actually you shouldn’t give up at the half-way stage. Despite clichés like shadowy outlines jerking across the camera, rustling trees in the woods to indicate something otherworldly is coming, flashlights going out at inappropriate moments, characters falling over when being chased, characters splitting up in the middle of nowhere, etc. there are a few moments of skill and vision. The up-close-and-personal camera work does add an element of panic to the stalking and chase scenes. Lots of close-ups of scared faces in the woods fill the end half of the film which totally reeks of The Blair Witch Project. Noises in the distance. Flashlights shining into the dark abyss of the woods looking for something. There’s even a few scenes borrowed from The Evil Dead in which the survivors find an old shack in the woods and barricade themselves in from the menace outside, which charges towards them in a nauseating The Evil Dead-style POV shot. I guess that I should be crediting the cameraman on The Evil Dead then for his fine work, not the plagiarist here.

The limited amount of special effects are excellent when they are used and it’s clear that with a bigger budget, more could have been made of this. The ‘deadly force’ has a tendency to absorb it’s victims into trees which leads to all manner of awesome moments of people being slowly turned into bark. In all honesty, these effects are that good that they deserve to be in a better film.

 

Dead Wood is quite simply an inferior cross-breed between The Evil Dead and The Blair Witch Project. I’m not trying to knock the hard work that has gone into an indie film like this but borrowing elements from two massively successful films isn’t going to make a decent flick. When you read highly positive reviews from across the world before you sit down to watch and it turns out this uninspired and dreary, it’s a big let down. Thankfully I’m here to set the record straight.

 

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