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John’s Horror Corner: The Woods (2006), an R-rated witch movie for young adults

March 12, 2014

MY CALL:  Overall this movie failed at being interesting, scary or creepy, and it hardly maintained any sense of atmosphere or suspense at all.  Another weak witch flick for young adults (despite the R-rating).  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Woods:  Want more movies about young witches?  Try Beautiful Creatures (2013) or The Craft (1996), both of which were notably better than this.

“Set in 1965 New England, a troubled girl encounters mysterious happenings in the woods surrounding an isolated girls school that she was sent to by her estranged parents.”  [–IMDB]

Heather Fasulo (Agnes Bruckner; The Pact, Venom, Blood and Chocolate) is delivered to an all-girls boarding school in the woods by her parents Alice (Emma Campbell; Feardotcom) and Joe Fasulo (Bruce Campbell; Oz the Great and Powerful, Evil Dead 2, Escape from L. A.), happy to be rid of her.

Don’t get excited about Bruce Campbell, he’s hardly in this movie.  But, much to his confusion, he does vomit a twig.

The students of this school fear the surrounding woods because of a story about three witches who had taken over the school a century ago.  This story is especially interesting because all of the school’s current teachers were once students.

The girl fights in this have got nothing on The Craft!

The leader of the local Mean Girls troupe Samantha (Rachel Nichols; The Amityville Horror, Conan the Barbarian, P2) readily makes her influence known to newbie Heather with some bully-style flexing.  But Heather resists showing the other students there’s a new tough chick on campus.  Both actresses do a fine job despite their ill-directed and poorly developed surroundings.

Headmistress Traverse (Patricia Clarkson; Shutter Island) takes a special interest in Heather, giving her tests with strange symbols and discussing some special scholarship.  A quiet, troubled student Anna (Kathleen Mackey; Apartment 1303, Gothika) suggests that Heather, like Anna, might be “special.”  What does it all mean?  I guess the ending sort of explains it…poorly.

Anna disappears and soon the students and faculty start behaving strangely around Heather… basically some attempts are made to add substance to the movie.  Not to be mean, but I feel this was written for the PG/PG-13 young adult crowd, which makes the drama and tension feel really weak to the more mature viewers who came to see this R-rated release.  Not that everything can be written by J. K. Rowling, but Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) felt far more credible, serious, tense and dramatic with its PG rating and this with its R, and that shouldn’t be.

The gore seems sufficient, I guess.  The type, execution and amount may spark the interest of the inexperienced, but it didn’t do much for me.  Mostly mist and aggressive plant life, the supernatural effects smack of Beautiful Creatures (2013) meets Evil Dead (2013).  These vines, like the gore, are seen most in the finale and they’re done VERY WELL.  In fact, the vines were the only creepy thing about the movie.  I guess it’s trying to be scary, but I’m feeling none of it.  Really…none.  This is rated-R but it feels aimed at youth.  The gore and the presentation of death must’ve pushed it to R, but I’m baffled nonetheless by the decision to present this story in this way to adults.

The ending was surprisingly pretty good and loaded with dark fantasy evil shrubbery effects and more gore.  There were some other scenes that could’ve been cool, but they weren’t followed up or explained, just squandered.

Overall this failed at being interesting, scary or creepy and hardly maintained any sense of atmosphere or suspense at all.

Skip it.

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