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DVD Review - The Haunting of Black Wood

Three strangers find themselves at a mysterious cabin in the woods.

Directed by: Jack Heller

Starring: Katherine Waterston, Scott Eastwood, Sara Paxton


Who keeps building these run down shacks smack bang in the midst of eerie woods? They’re simply asking for trouble. Electricity is touch and go, you can forget running water, and there’s almost always some sort of bizarre activity/curse surrounding the area. Recent forest situated properties to fall foul of these circumstances include the one in Mama, another in Cabin Fever, yet again in The (erm) Cabin in the (uh) Woods. The tradition goes back further; the Evil Deads, Friday the 13th; so many campers who persist in hiking to these out of the way shacks, simply to run away screaming through the usual forest of tropes and clich├ęs.
Except perhaps not, as The Haunting of Black Wood is, if not an entirely fresh take on the convention, then an interesting attempt at something a little different. Despite the generic promises of the title, the film is less horror, more character driven suspense with supernatural overtones. The premise concerns three strangers; Sam, Tom and Jody (Katherine Waterston, Scott Eastwood, Sara Paxton), who convene in, yes, a strange, seemingly abandoned cabin, deep within the titular woods, following separate car troubles. Coincidence, or something stranger? To discuss the plot further entails slight spoilers, so enter this particular cabin carefully if you wish for your enjoyment of this interesting little film to remain unblemished.
Despite the trio’s continued efforts to escape, it transpires that they really are trapped in the cabin’s immediate vicinity; ventures towards civilisation in any direction find the characters returning, impossibly, back to where they began. A threat manifests in the sound of mysterious gun shots firing from somewhere in the forest. The tension further rises as the three are individually plagued by jittering flashbacks, and the revelation that they all believe the cabin to be in very different parts of the country. The film’s first big reveal won’t come as a surprise to any viewer who has seen the likes of Carnival of Souls or Dead End, however, further to the first revelation, is yet another twist, which is delightfully surprising and very intriguing in its execution.
With its limited cast, mainly singular set and the delicate, deliberate unravelling of its plot, The Haunting of Black Wood has all the hallmarks of a well-produced play. Within these sort of films there is the danger of the ‘where-are-we-why-are-we-here?’ conceit to outstay its welcome, but The Haunting of Black Wood’s tension is sustained by the hard and convincing work of its leads: Sara Paxton is as great and versatile as ever, playing bad girl going good Jody, Scott Eastwood channels his old man’s impeachable cool, and Katherine Waterston is especially good, granting the film its emotional foundation. The mood of the film strikes the right notes of gloomy weirdness, and the slow burn of mystery is beguiling.
Research says The Haunting of Black Wood was actually made and released in America four years ago, under the original title of Enter Nowhere. It would seem that for U.K distribution, Metrodome have retitled the movie hoping to tap into the gothic yearning of the all-out horror market.  Here’s hoping the ploy pays off, as The Haunting of Black Wood is a film that deserves a wide audience - a cabin in the woods that is worth seeking out and spending an hour or so in.
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