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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dark Fairy Tale Thriller "In the Woods" Talks Justice . . . Or Vengeance?

"IN THE WOODS" (2015)
Genre: Thriller
Length- 20:33
Company:  South Wind Pictures

Harry Sheperd (Alpha Trivette) lost his wife to a brutal killer twenty three years ago -- a killer that was never found.  But he never gave up hope her killer would be brought to justice, and in fact he thinks that today very well might be the day.  You see, Harry's got a man in chains in his cellar (John Kap), a man who might be the killer.

Or he might not.

It's up to Harry now to make sure before he makes a terrible mistake.

WAITING FOR THE SHOW TO START

"In the Woods" is a short film written, directed and produced by Brett Bagwell, and it deliberately attempts to marry contemporary film with fantasy and fairy tale stylings on a tiny budget.  It's an ambitious concept, and clearly there's a lot of passion behind this project and I respect that.

In the first three minutes of the film, pills are put into a cup, a sandwich is made and Harry heads down into the cellar.  That's all that happens.  As a viewer, I want to have a mood set for me, by all means, but that should only take a matter of seconds, maybe a full minute, tops.  Consider the fact that the entire movie is only eighteen and a half minutes long if you cut out the credits.  That means we're setting the mood and making a sandwich for one sixth of the ENTIRE RUNNING TIME OF THE FILM.

At another point, we pan upward through trees and leaves for a full fifty seconds.

I'm all for slow, methodical filmmaking, but that just ruins any pacing the film might have otherwise established.  Instead of being engaged with what is otherwise an interesting story, the viewers are scratching their heads, wondering when the story's going to start.

AND THE CURTAINS RISE

Now then, once the film kicks into gear it's plenty entertaining.  The makeup effects are well done, the lighting is excellent and in every physical aspect the production looks fantastic.  The script's written with dialogue that emulates a wordy, Gothic style, and the results are a bit hit or miss, but it's an interesting move and it certainly gives the film a different flavor.  The actors work with what they are given and come out on top.

The conclusion isn't spelled out, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but here it's not only ambiguous, it feels nonexistent.  After watching for twenty minutes, I felt like I wanted a more definitive cap to a story that had genuinely interested me.

CONCLUSION

"In the Woods" is a well made film in most respects, and its aspirations help it rise above a lot of other movies I see here at Forest City Short Film Review.  Bagwell and company are talented filmmakers and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next!

OVERALL SCORES: 

Writing: 2 / 5.  It's a very small scale film, shot primarily in one location, which means that the entire storyline rides on the interplay between our two leads.  Bagwell attempts to emulate a Gothic, fairy tale style in the dialogue, and at times it works and at other times it doesn't.  I couldn't 100% follow where      
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  It's a good looking film all around courtesy of Director of Photography Joshua Heetderks and Bagwell, whose eye for visuals keeps the film interesting, even when all we're doing is watching two guys talk.  The chase scene three quarters of the way through the film is particularly inspired.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Though cut together reasonably well by Marquis C. Mosley, it still feels far too long.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  The dialogue and sound effects are recorded professionally, and the soundtrack by Brandon Squires is rustic and dirty.  
Acting: 3 / 5.  The dialogue is half the problem here, attempting to emulate a Gothic style, but both actors put in their best performances and manage to get their mouths around their lines.  Of the two, Trivette is the most credible.

Final Grade: 3.1 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "In the Woods" and follow the creators on Facebook!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!