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IFI Horrorthon 2015 Review - THE DEVIL'S WOODS

A group of campers run afoul of a mysterious killer in a rural Irish town.

Review by Emily Craig (@emillycraig)

Directed by: Anthony White

Starring: Stephen Cromwell, Aoife King, Aidan O'Sullivan, Danielle Keaney, Daniel Mahony, Caoimhe Cassidy


"It’s often hard for a horror on such a low budget not to be slightly comical, but The Devil’s Woods is serious stuff, a great attempt from a first time film director that shows promise and extreme talent."





Directed by Anthony White, The Devil’s Woods is an eerie horror film about a group of friends who go camping for a music festival, but a stupid small stop to a rural Irish town stops them in their tracks. The film opens with a young woman walking nearby some woods, where she gets raped by a dirty onlooker; the rapist off screen seemingly gets brutally murdered, followed by screams from the girl, which distills a disturbing feeling from the onset.
Keith (Stephen Cromwell) and Jen (Danielle Keaney) are waking up to go pick their friends Jay (Daniel Mahony) and Katie (Caoimhe Cassidy) up to start their road trip to the music festival; they discuss concern for Katie as something happened to her brother, which the audience never discovers. The foursome then stops off for some drinks at a pub in a village, only to find that the locals are extremely strange; the men ogle at the two girls and make sexual comments, while the bar lady has an uncomfortable stare. They make a stop in some picturesque woods before the music festival, but this ends up being their ultimate mistake. With the brutal opening scene still in audience’s minds, it’s easy to put two and two together and realise our main protagonists are in for the same fate as the poor woman from the start. It all goes topsy turvy when the girls play a mean joke on Keith and Jay and their joke becomes reality.
The Devil’s Woods is described as a homage to Italian horror films of the 1970s and English classics such as The Wicker Man (1973), and it’s easy to see similarities once watched. A lot of '70s Italian horror films had an occult element to them - for example Sergio Martino’s 1972 All the Colours of the Dark - whereas a lot of films from the giallo genre included a mysterious killer, just like The Devil’s Woods. Most of all, I can see clear comparisons to The Wicker Man; for example, both include a stranger invading a new area and both include deranged cultist residents.
For a film made on a measly sum of £600, it’s surprisingly convincing; I found that the gore in the film looked extremely real and the use of the outdoors gave it a very realistic touch. It’s often hard for a horror on such a low budget not to be slightly comical, but The Devil’s Woods is serious stuff. The acting is also to be praised, especially from Danielle Keaney; through most of the film I believed these actors and their relationships. One criticism I do have is that most of the action happens in the last 20 minutes; as the film is only 1hr 15m, I felt that it could have headed to the woods earlier, to build up more tension for a stronger finale. Another criticism is that there is a subplot concerning Laura and her brother and this is never fully resolved; we don’t get to know what happened to her brother and nothing ever comes of it, which is a shame.
Overall, it’s a great attempt from a first time film director that shows promise and extreme talent. It has a great unearthly soundtrack and a talented cast. While the film may have lost me in the middle, it brought me back in the last 20 minutes, which were executed admirably; who ever said you needed a large budget to succeed in the world of horror?




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