October 11, 2019 The Village in the Woods (Movie Review)
Every village, every person has a secret. In the murky woods of one such location in the British countryside, two strangers will collide with the locals in The Village in the Woods. Lightbulb Film Distribution and Brake3 make the Folk Horror offering available On Demand, as well as for download on all major digital platforms, as of Monday, October 14th, 2019.
Broke and down on their luck, Rebecca (Beth Park: Killing All the Flies TV movie 2013, Operator short 2014) and Jason (Robert Vernon: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood video game 2017, Saudade short 2018) are given a chance at redemption when one of the pair inherits an old pub in the tight-knit village of Coopers Cross.
Perpetually shrouded in dense fog, the insular community welcomes the young couple a little too fervently, with the seductive Maddy (Therese Bradley: Half Light 2006, The Railway Man 2013) rolling out the welcome wagon before the couple are even inside their new home. Soon after, they encounter the intense Charles (Richard Hope: Agatha Christie’s Poirot series, Broadchurch series) and the haunting presence known as Arthur (Sidney Kean: Lifeforce 1985, Hanuman 1998). Rounding out the group are Vince (Timothy Harker: Peaky Blinders series, Coronation Street series) and Emily (Rebecca Johnson: The Trip 2010, The Trip to Italy 2014).
It’s hard to blame the locals for being too welcoming, but the young couple are still on edge in their new surroundings. When one of the group forewarns Rebecca that something terrible is about to happen, it suddenly becomes clear that not everyone is who they claim to be in Coopers Cross—and the deceiver is about to be deceived.
Clocking in at 82 minutes, The Village in the Woods was a true labor of love for Raine McCormack (The Souvenir short 2013, I Shall Visit short 2015) who makes his feature-length directorial debut with the film, co-wrote its screenplay, and composed the original score. Co-written with John Hoernschemeyer (Lostfriesland series, FAITHLESS series), the film also features the acting talents of Katie Alexander Thom (Game of Thrones series, The Girls Were Doing Nothing short 2019), Phill Martin (Pan 2015, Cannibals and Carpet Fitters 2017), and Chloe Bailey.
Billed as a blend of Horror, Mystery, and Thriller, The Village in the Woods can also be described more succinctly as Folk Horror: a neo noir take on the genre that couples a slow-burn screenplay with haunting atmospherics. This is not a film fraught with jump-scares or gore, but rather Director McCormack’s self-proclaimed “dark love letter to ‘70’s cinema.”
Whereas modern Horror tends to go for the gratuitous and to stab its viewers in the gut with its plot points, The Village in the Woods remains hazy like the tenebrous fog that coats the woods and Coopers Cross in gray. With elements reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and a delicate nod to the occult, the film offers plenty of subtle suggestions (and some not so subtle) to move viewers along in their understanding of its plot, but it is decidedly an intentional slow-burn that pays off in plenty of eerie feels.
Its magnificent cast certainly bolster the overall mood. Park in the leading performance as the anxious and fidgety Rebecca, Park provides the anchor for her co-stars to present their perfectly unsettling deliveries. Bradley’s alluring performance as the cougar Maddy kicks the whole film into action as she moves about the screen with a feline grace, never unnerving but always a little bit too much for any given situation.
Similarly, Hope delivers an exceptional performance as Charles, who never quite crosses into seedy territory though he always toes the line beautifully. With a wonderful subtlety to all that he does, Hope’s body language and facial expressions allow for character that is a dapper older gentleman who could be entirely harmless—though he might be poisonous too.
Filmed in East Sussex, Kent, and Somerset, United Kingdom, The Village in the Woods utilizes its wonderful cast, splendid natural landscapes and bold architecture, along with the moody cinematography of Jamie Hobbis (The Wereth Eleven 2011, Dangerous Game 2017) and Berndt Wiese (Viking Relics short 1992, In The Deathroom short 2019) to paint an intensity of mood. With a wonderful neo noir feel to the production, capped off with its eerie original score, the film is a fully enjoyable watch for anyone that loves old-school Horror with a kiss of Mystery.
Every village has a secret, but so does every person. When these two facts collide in the forest, one young couple will never be the same. Darkly unsettling with Cimmerian atmospherics, The Village in the Woods is perfectly suited to October viewing. For this, Cryptic Rock give the film 4.5 of 5 stars.