This year has brought forth a large crop of folk horror films, Horror on the High Desert, In the Earth, Flee the Light and the epic documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror. Woodland Grey however may be the film that kills the genre’s resurgence off.
Director Adam Reider (Endast: Where I Belong) and co-writer Jesse Toufexis get Woodland Grey off to an almost painfully slow start. William (Ryan Blakely, Dream House, Awake) lives in a run down camper in the woods. We watch him look around for the source of an odd sound in the night, find a rabbit in a trap and gut it, dig up carrots and a do a few other mundane things. Apart from a beautiful shot of him by a river, this is like watching paint dry.
Then he finds Emily (Jenny Raven, Flatliners, Kim’s Convenience) unconscious in the woods. He brings her back to his trailer to recover while he stares ominously at a rickety shed about the size of an outhouse and feeds whatever is locked inside it. With no real knowledge about either of them all we can do is watch these two enigmas make the occasional attempts at conversation until Emily eventually is able to walk well enough to go look in the shed. Then things finally start to happen.
Woodland Grey wants to be enigmatic, the kind of film that’s all questions and very few answers leaving the viewer to figure things out and interpret them for themselves. The problem is it’s just too vague and I couldn’t get any kind of grip on just what was going on. There’s a couple of flashbacks, some of which feature Art Hindle (Black Christmas, The Brood), but they don’t help much.
Woodland Grey felt like somebody’s film school project, all artsy, pretentious and convinced that its lack of answers is a sign of cleverness rather than bad writing. And a certain subset of critics and festival audiences will go along with it rather than risk looking like they weren’t smart enough to get it.
By the film’s end you can maybe make a few guesses as to what’s going on, but since the film never gives us any answers you’ll never know if you’re right. Of course you can’t really be wrong either. If Reider and Toufexis had given us a little more to go on it might have been different and fun to discuss afterwards, but as it stands I just want to forget I saw Woodland Grey and hope the headache it gave me goes away.
Woodland Grey will make its World Premiere Monday November 22nd as part of this year’s Blood in the Snow Film Festival. You can get ticket information on the festival’s website. You can also check the film’s Facebook page for future screenings.