Take a bunch of friends, send them to an isolated cabin in the woods, add booze, drugs, and interpersonal tension and you have the start of countless horror movies. In BEYOND THE WOODS Irish director Sean Breathnach makes his feature-length debut using this premise. Impressively, he manages to do something different with it.
Having drifted apart over time a group of friends decides to reconnect in a secluded cottage out in the Irish countryside. However a large, smelly sinkhole has recently opened nearby, it’s fumes somewhat dampening the mood. As night falls, pints are emptied and joints smoked people begin acting oddly. Is it intoxication? Are the fumes having an effect? Or is the pit really, as one character jokes “the gates of hell”? As the second day dawns one person is missing and the strangeness continues. It’s clear that something is wrong and their lives depend on finding out what.
Shot with a low budget but a lot of talent BEYOND THE WOODS manages to stay interesting despite a fairly slow start. We spend a lot of time meeting and getting to know the characters. This could have been a tedious and dull start but the dialogue is crisp and natural. There are just enough references to the sinkhole and their shared past to be informative without feeling expository. This is a very good thing, as this being a low budget film a lot of it is dialogue and character driven. There are effects, and damn good ones, but they’re used judiciously through the film’s running time.
Once the film gets going it is distinctly creepy and tense. The plot takes enough twists to keep you from figuring out what is going on right up to an ending I didn’t expect. And it does all of this without relying on loads of gore. It works like an updated version of the older films many of us grew up watching on Saturday afternoon TV. One note in that regard, the film’s poster showing an ax-wielding figure does it a disservice. This isn’t a simple slasher, BEYOND THE WOODS is a full-blown supernatural mindfuck of a movie.
Ireland has been on something of a roll lately when it comes to genre films, producing the likes of GRABBERS, THE HALLOW, and A DARK SONG. BEYOND THE WOODS continues that tradition. This is indie film done right, see it and support it.
Following a successful tour of the festival circuit, Left Films will be releasing BEYOND THE WOODS on VOD February 5th and on DVD on the 19th.