The Movie Waffler Film Maudit 2.0 2021 Review - NINA OF THE WOODS | The Movie Waffler

Film Maudit 2.0 2021 Review - NINA OF THE WOODS

nina of the woods review
A young woman returns to her backwoods home, followed by a reality TV crew.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Charlie Griak

Starring: Megan Hensley, Shawn Patrick Boyd, Daniel Bielinski, Rachael Davies, Ricardo Vázquez, Emily Fradenburgh, Mia Peters

nina of the woods poster

Ever since The Blair Witch Project achieved unprecedented commercial success, American indie filmmakers have been venturing into the woods in hope of exploiting nature's production value. The latest is writer/director Charlie Griak with Nina of the Woods, though Griak has greater ambitions than simply knocking out a cheap found footage thriller.

nina of the woods review

In what seems like a meta commentary on the sort of film you might initially expect Nina of the Woods to be, the movie introduces us to Jeremy (Daniel Bielinski) and Rochelle (Rachael Davies), the exploitative filmmakers behind a reality TV series called "Truth Seekers." For their latest episode, the pair are headed off to the woods in search of Bigfoot, and to add some authenticity they've hired struggling actress Nina (Kristen Wiig lookalike Megan Hensley), who lived in the area as a young girl and was given lessons in nature by her father, whom she hasn't seen since she was a toddler. With nice guy cameraman Eric (Ricardo Vázquez) in tow, the quartet hook up with a creepy local guide (Shawn Patrick Boyd) and head deep into the woods.

What follows is a surprising and welcome deviation from what you might expect from such a setup. Far from the woods posing a sinister threat, instead the forest holds secrets of enlightenment, like "The Zone" of Tarkovsky's Stalker. As the crew members begin to experience what they believe to be hallucinations, they suspect their guide of drugging their coffee. Only Nina realises what is really happening, that the forest is trying to communicate with her as she recalls the time she spent with her father.

nina of the woods review

While Nina in the Woods scores points for ambition, it never quite gathers its ideas into a satisfying narrative. Events transpire only to be forgotten about, like when Jeremy comes across a past version of his own group and it seems the film is about to venture into the territory of the similarly trippy but more well conceived sci-fi indie Coherence. As the film plays out, it begins to feel like we're listening to a pothead deliver a rambling philosophical lecture in the kitchen of a house party. The movie's attempts to conceal a late twist are far from convincing.

As the titular Nina, Hensley shows much promise, and her committed performance helps keep us onboard as the film appears to be losing its way around her. Cinematographers Buck Holzemer and Gregory R. Winter make the most of the beautiful natural setting to give the film a polished sheen that covers the budgetary limitations, and the immersive sound design adds to the feeling that we're lost deep in these uncertain woods.

nina of the woods review

On a technical level, Nina of the Woods is one of the more impressive low budget American indies of recent years, and I have to applaud Griak's aspiration. But while it's a cut above the slew of "let's go the woods with a camera and hope for the best" indie horrors, it fails to come anywhere near the sort of metaphysical genre films (Stalker; Solaris; Picnic at Hanging Rock) it hopes to echo.

Nina of the Woods
screens as part of Film Maudit 2.0 2021 from January 12th - 24th. Click here for details.

2021 movie reviews