Okay, confession time. There are three things that I have proper phobias about: clowns, E.T. and camping. Clowns for the simple reason that they kidnap and eat people. Fact. E.T. might not be a usual one, but he’s never sat right with me. There’s something downright disturbing with his look that no one else can seem to see but me.
Years ago I went on the E.T. ride at Universal Studios, which, in retrospect, was a bad idea. I was basically trapped in a ten-minute descent into my own personal hell. Camping, though, is a strange one. I’m not too sure where this one comes from. When I was at school I had to go on a camping trip, but I can’t think of anything bad that happened. Unless it was so traumatising that I’ve repressed it to the far reaches of my brain, and it will one day surface causing me to have a complete schizoid embolism. At least I can write a bestselling book about it. Oh, and once at a festival a mate ‘accidentally’ set my tent on fire with me inside, and then proceeded to extinguish the flames by urinating all over it. Pretty bad, but not enough to warrant the irrational dread I have.
On the plus side, this fear of camping will help me avoid the situation the protagonist of the new DVD Dead Wood find themselves in.
Any self respecting film fan will know that camping trips in movies never usually end well. From the Blair Witch to being slammed into a tree whilst in a sleeping bag by Jason Voorhees, neither of which are the sort of things that would class as a good holiday (although still preferable to Butlins).
In Dead Wood two couples decide to take a weekend break camping in a forest. As mentioned before, this is not my idea of a good time but different strokes and all that. What begins as a happy fun-filled time soon turns left and heads up a certain creek without a paddle after they discover an abandoned tent. The appearance of one of the occupants of said tent (the other having been dispatched at the beginning of the film) only leads to more trouble as the couples try to escape from the woods.
I haven’t seen a film for quite a while that’s polarized my opinions like Dead Wood. I’m really torn to how I felt about the film. It’s not really scary and honestly not that great, but has some good ideas and is solidly directed (on what appears to be a tiny budget).
The film is very slow-paced and can drag in places, but then the directors (of which there are apparently three) don’t try to go for the cheap scares (although there are one or two) much rather taking time to build a feeling of dread. The characters are quite dull and not really that interesting, but on the other hand, are not cheap cliches and elicit enough emotions that you actually care what happens to them.
A lot of the shots and ideas are seemingly taken from many horror films seen before. A deserted cabin from Evil Dead, a creepy girl with long black hair from…well pretty much every J-Horror film, but are handled very well.
I also have to applaud the decision in trying to make the villain one of a supernatural nature rather than a typical slasher film that usually goes with ‘don’t go into the woods’ horror films. The characters are not being picked off by an escaped lunatic, but by something more mysterious.
The only problem is that after watching the film several times now, I have absolutely no idea what the motive is. Without wanting to give too much away, the only explanation I can come up with is that the film is along the same lines as the Australian film The Long Weekend. The accidental killing of a deer by the main characters at the beginning of the film and the epilogue ending seems to give rise to this, but is not explained well and left me a little unfulfilled by the final credits.
The acting, just like the film, is very hard to pin down. On first viewing the actors speech feels very stiff and at times unnatural, but after repeated viewings it appears that the whole film was shot with ADR or additional dialogue recording. If you’re unaware, this is when the actors, after filming, have to re-record their dialogue to fit over the film. Its really hard to get the emotions the actors would have when filming when recreating these scenes later on. For whatever reasons, more than likely due to the low budget, the sound was not picked up on the principle filming and for this reason I don’t want to crucify the actors.
Dead Wood is a real mixed bag. Though the body of the film is quite weak, the execution is first class and really betrays the low budget. There’s enough imagination and flair to suggest that the directors are ones to watch in the future. Given better material they may have an excellent film in them. Just unfortunately it’s not Dead Wood.
Extras Only a trailer.
Dead Wood is released on the 13th of April