March 31, 2020 Rootwood (Movie Review)
From the director of 2016’s Blood Feast comes the brand new Horror offering Rootwood, featuring scream queens Elissa Dowling and Felissa Rose. High Octane Pictures delivers the film to DVD and Digital on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020.
Rootwood stars Dowling (Tales of Halloween 2015, Clown Fear 2020), Rose (Sleepaway Camp 1983, The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs series), Tyler Gallant (Alpha Wolf 2018, #FollowMe 2019), and Sarah French (Automation 2019, Blind 2019). In the film within the film, noteworthy Horror producer Laura Benott (Rose) contacts a podcaster named Will (Gallant) with a potentially huge break: she’s looking for someone to film a documentary about a real-life legend circulating around Hollywood, that of The Wooden Devil.
Together with his periwinkle-haired co-star Jessie (Dowling), Will hosts “The Spooky Hour,” a podcast dedicated to paranormal phenomenon, urban legends, and all things that go bump in the night. A match made in heaven for this documentary, the pair hire their high-maintenance friend Erin (French) as their third musketeer, and then load up their RV for the trip to Rootwood Forest. Armed with an extensive array of top of the line equipment thanks to Benott, the trio set up camp and immediately dive into their investigation.
As these things tend to go in Horror land, strange noises howl throughout their very first night, and the threesome are soon forced to decide if this is truly their big break—or is it a death sentence? Clocking in at 82 minutes, Rootwood was directed by the acclaimed Marcel Walz (Blood Feast 2016, Blind 2019) and written by Mario von Czapiewski (Cannibal Diner 2012, Rapunzels Fluch 2020). The film also features the acting talents of Tiffani Fest (Circus of the Dead 2014, For Jennifer 2018); Brandon Rhea (Fearless 2006, Push 2009); and Kwame Head, a makeup artist known for his work on the Star Trek: Renegades series and 2019’s Greenlight.
To run screaming straight into the heart of the matter, Rootwood is a mixed bag but still an enjoyable watch. Certainly the film has its flaws, including its generic ‘paranormal investigation in the woods’ premise, lack of attention to detail, and some stiff scenes so far as its acting is concerned. This all amounts to nighttime scenes inside an RV with bright sunlight shining in from the outside, forced conversations between characters, and moments where it feels as though one actor is awaiting a cue that has not yet arrived. Fortunately, there’s enough good material here to overcome these snafus and provide an entertaining ride—and the twist with a twist ending does not hurt either.
Certainly, viewers must know that it’s par for the course in Horror films that the characters will make bad decisions, and the trio of Will, Jessie, and Erin are no different. However, these flaws are embedded into the screenplay, and the actors—Gallant, Dowling, and French—do a good job in their roles. Gallant—who sports a hysterical “Dracula in the streets, Wolfman in the sheets” tee in several scenes—seems to intentionally underact. Pausing just a little too long when in conversations and generally giving off the vibe of the flighty assistant, his character is flat but he does a solid job with the material he’s given.
Often dressed like a celestial witch in velvets and other flowy fabrics, Dowling’s Jessie steals the show. Intelligent, witty, and with a level of sass to her character, though Jessie is never fleshed out beyond the bare bones, Dowling takes what little material is offered and manages to shine. A quirky female lead, she provides a good anchor for French’s Erin, who portrays the beautiful, flighty, high-maintenance blonde with heart. In many ways the opposite of Jessie, Erin is simply along for the ride. In this, while her purpose is merely to exist in her role, French delivers a solid performance. Of course, Rose should not be overlooked. Her character, Benott, is sultry, chic, and rich; part sur-reality TV housewife, part Kardashian, and completely over-the-top. There’s a wit to Rose’s performance, and she intentionally over-acts to deliver some melodramatic ridiculousness to her role.
All done and said, Rootwood isn’t a bad little film. With an animalistic grace to its spooky Wooden Devil creature, a good jump-scare, solid acting, and a surprising double twist, the movie manages to craft a light-hearted Horror experience that borders on a Horror-Comedy, one that is enjoyable enough throughout its runtime that, ultimately, its flaws are easily forgiven. A satirical look at paranormal investigating, Rootwood is worthy of a spot on your quarantine watchlist. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Rootwood 3.5 of 5 stars.