Movie Reviews 216 – The Woods (2006)

The WoodsYet another story featuring the prototypical child being dumped at a boarding school after other scholastic avenues have been exhausted based on the child’s penchant for mischief. This and many other horror staples are revisited in director Lucky McKee’s The Woods.

The ‘devouring forest’ horror cliché has been used often enough for all horror hounds to be familiar with whether it be the group of kids in a cabin or the party of hunters being both predator and prey. But this is the first time the forest actually leaves behind a body shaped mound of decaying leaves in the victims beds once the deed is done.

Lead actress Agnes Bruckner (Heather) is perfect in the role of the forlorn forgotten child while Patricia Clarkson plays the impassive headmistress Ms. Traverse so effectively that we’re actually convinced that she has all the girls best intentions in mind. But in this case, the school is being run by a coven of witches that are seeking long overdue release from being confined in this all girl academy in the woods precipitated by a visit of three young witches who unleashed their fury ages ago in a nearby village.

Heather sustains brief happiness with new found friend Marcy, but soon runs into afoul with the school administration and even more so at the hands of Samantha, the tall blonde fellow student with an attitude.

The witches have been killing off their pupils one by one over the years, keeping them in line with spiked milk and the forest whose tentacled branches crawl into the dorm rooms at night, enveloping their next victim. They have been waiting all these years for a gifted one that will release them from the school and Heather’s knack for magical tricks convinces the witches that their long wait is finally over. After getting rid of Marcy and other girls they finally get to Heather one night, but luckily Heather had managed to get word to her parents who come to her rescue at the last minute.

The background flashback depicting the witches introduction and association with the school and what caused the witches to be held captive is a bit murky. Other than having dreams of some of the past events, Heather’s only ability seems to be levitating objects or balancing them to be more accurate. So even exactly how she can help the witches is confusing.

As is often the case in such movies, it’s the interaction between opposing students and the school authority that presents the tension and drama driving the film. This is where this movie really shines. Heather is focal and how she interacts with those few other characters, Marcy,  Ms. Traverse and to a lesser extent Samantha and her parents, keep viewers glued to the screen. Her dad Joe is played by none other than Bruce Campbell (delivering a fine ‘serious’ performance for a change) who certainly knows a thing or two about witches in the woods.

Another big plus is the 1965 time era which adds seasonal fashions and wonderfully dated technology to add more charm to the movie.

My net impression of the movie? While the husk may be a bit rough and jagged, the film does manage to keep the underbrush creep factor garden fresh.

 

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