Review: WITCHES IN THE WOODS (2019)
Shot under the highly generic title Stranded, and still listed as such on the production company’s website, Witches In The Woods is an attempt to do something different with the college students trapped in the woods sub-genre. Director Jordan Barker (The Marsh, Torment), working from a script by Christopher Borrelli (Dangerous, The Vatican Tapes) tries to subvert the usual clichés.
A group of students from the University of Massachusetts set off for a weekend on the slopes. Or in a hot tub, as the case may be. They run into a detour due to a jackknifed logging truck and end up stranded in the middle of nowhere. When the threat of freezing to death becomes compounded with strange occurrences, tempers begin to flare.
What’s interesting here though is the ties to each other are as much toxic as conventionally friendly. Jill (Hannah Kasulka) is dating big shot jock Derek (Craig Arnold) but waiting for the right time to break up with him. She’s already seeing Philip (Corbin Bleu, Nurse 3D, Galaxy Quest), Derek’s only black teammate.
Part of this has to do with Derek’s reaction to a sexual harassment claim filed by Alison (Sasha Clements) against several members of the team. With a core like this, it’s no wonder that the group quickly starts to fall apart. The newcomers, brothers Matty (Alexander De Jordy) and Tod (Kyle Mac, Buckout Road) and party girl Bree (Humberley Gonzalez) are just collateral damage. And a way for Witches In The Woods to up the potential body count.
Barker sets up some of the usual cues, such as an animal that appears to have been killed for the sake of killing. And suspects, like the hostile redneck hunter (Ian Matthews, Death Wish). There’s also the area’s history of witch trials and curses. Take your pick of explanations, human, natural or supernatural, Witches In The Woods has them all.
The final revelation of which it is may get some polarized responses. I can easily see where some people will not be happy with it. I found it effective enough but would have preferred Witches In The Woods to end on a different note.
Witches In The Woods just made its world premiere at Frightfest. Expect more festival dates to come as the film looks for distribution.