Sunday, 7 July 2013

Horror Heads out to the Woods! 5 Films about Fearful Forests

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

Grab your tents, backpacks and don't forget a good knife because you're gonna need it.  Here are some wild forest films that may change your mind about facing the elements this or any other summer.  The woods can be scary and these movies have more nuts in them than in a squirrel's house, so before you start packing up and planning that vacation, better check out these titles.

Here are 5 Films about Fearful Forests

5. The Forest (1982) - Steve and Charlie are going crazy in the city, so Charlie suggests what seems like a brokeback mountain getaway for them, so they can complain about their wives. Steve loves the idea, so over dinner they tell they're wives that they're going camping on the next weekend.  The wives, Sharon and Teddi are furious and tell them that they're gonna go camping too.  That'll show them!  The wives tell them them that they're just as tough and macho as they are and will go this camping this weekend.  However, the next morning the wives come to their senses and realize that they can't go camping alone and ask the men to leave an hour after them. Girl Power!
  So an hour later, Steve and Charlie leave but have car trouble and have a 4 hour pit stop.  The girls get to the forest and find out hiking is a lot tougher than it looks.  They get half way there and give up and decide to wait for the men.  The men finally arrive but have to hurry because nightfall is coming and they don't want to get lost in the woods. Night arrives and the ladies are relaxing by huge campfire, when all of a sudden two ghost children warn them that their father is coming to kill them and to run away.  Confused, Sharon and Teddi blame the booze but a few moments later a maniac attacks their campsite and kills Teddi!  Sharon escapes and hides in the woods, hoping that the men will arrive and save her.  Will the guys ever find Sharon and survive this camping nightmare or will they become another victim to this madman cannibal?
  This movie was all over the place and I loved it!  It starts as a slasher film and turns into a ghost story, then back to a slaher/cannibal film.  It's pretty crazy and when it changes it's focus, you'll be scratching your head and laughing at the same time.  Director Don Jones (The Love Butcher, Schoolgirls in Chains) tries to jam so many elements into this that it just turns into a mess.  My favourite part is the back story of the cannibal father, who caught his wife cheating with a repairman.  The repairman doesn't leave but goes back to fixing the fridge and is attacked, really slowly by the father.  There is three confrontation between the two and each get sillier with more ridiculous weaponry that they're using.  The script is so bad and the acting is worse, I think these people must have been friends of the director with time on their hands because I think dinner theatre would have passed on these people.  There isn't a whole lot of gore but our killer does get stabby which is entertaining enough.  The music for this is hilarious.  It's hard explain but the music used in the film is so heavy handed I'm sure blind people are like, I get it fuck, these characters are in danger.  Also, there are songs about what's going on at that specific moments, which kind of made me laugh.  If you like MST horror flicks, then you'll dig this cuz it'll make you laugh all the way to the outhouse.    

4. The Woods (2006) - It's 1965 and Heather Fasulo is being sent to Falburn Academy, an all girls boarding school, after she set fire to the forest in her home town. whoops.  Her parents, Joe and Alice believe this school will give her the strong moral upbringing that they have been lacking to provide her.  They are met by the Dean of the school, Ms Traverse and told that she will only be accepted to the school after she completes a written assessment because of her father's bad financial conditions.  She passes the test, deemed gifted and her parents head home, leaving her at the school in the middle of the woods.  That she could probably light on fire, maybe.
  Being new and a redhead, she becomes a target for the school bully, Samantha.  However, Heather doesn't put up with shit and fights back, which creates a bond with another outcast, Marcy.  Her and Marcy become besties and everything is good.  Then, one evening while the girls are getting ready for bed, Heather asks about the empty bed at the end.  The other girls tell her that it belonged to a girl named, Ann who tried to commit suicide and is at a mental institution recovering.  The girls then tell her about the sordid history of the school and how three evil sisters, 100 years ago came to the school and got everyone to follow them into the woods.  When all the girls returned from the woods, they killed the headmistress and their have been strange occurrences ever since.
  That night Heather has a terrible nightmare about Ann and sees her being murdered.  Also, when ever Heather is near the woods outside the school, she thinks that the someone is whispering to her and she thinks she sees ghosts running through the woods.  Ms. Traverse dismisses her claims but when some other students go missing she knows something is afoot.  Can Heather stop the haunted woods from stealing all her new best friends or is she going crazy and really hates fucking trees?
  This movie was alright.  I think I was expecting more because I liked the other work that director Lucky McKee (The Woman, May) has put out and Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Intruder) is playing the dad.  My issue is that I found it a bit confusing, is it the witches controlling the forest or was it the forest controlling the witches, I don't know, it just didn't jive with me.  However, I thought Agnes Buckner (Venom, Murder By Numbers) was great as Heather and I love Patricia Clarkson (The Dead Pool, The Green Mile) in anything with "The" in the title, she is a phenomenal actress.  There are a few mildly gory scenes in this, that could get your blood pumping but it's more of a supernatural thiller/mystery film.  Enjoyable but this wouldn't be the first tree I hit.   

3. The Mooring (2012) - A group of teenage girls who spend to much time on their cell phones and on their computers are sent by their parents to an outdoor retreat which cuts them off from technology.  The group leader, Nancy collects all the cell phones and explains that they will be learning how to fend for themselves in the wilderness and still have lots of fun.  The next day, the load up the boat and start their technology free adventure! Hooray!
  While on their trip down the river, far from civilization, each girl gets a chance to drive the boat and the others hang out, chat and just enjoy the outdoors.  Unfortunately, something happens to the boat motor and Nancy is called over to take a look.  There doesn't seem to be a huge issue but she'll take a look at it after they get to the island.  They arrive at the island and the girls set up camp.  Night is setting in, so they build a big campfire and Nancy proves she isn't all bad by allowing the girls to use a boombox that she brung, so they can dance around the fire like little heathens. The girls love it and are having a blast, until another boat pulls up into the area.  The group can hear a drunk man fighting with his lady friend in some seriously violent tones.  Nancy tells the girls they have a long day ahead of them, so they should get to bed.  On the way to bed, one of the girls gives their new neighbours some lip and the boat hits them with a spotlight and tells that girl to shut the fuck up.  Nancy apologizes for the girl and they head off to bed.
  The next morning, the group is having breakfast and the girl from the other boat comes to visit them, looking for coffee.  She looks old for her age with bruises and terrible teeth.  She apologizes for last night and disses their coffee, then leaves.  Whatever, Nancy tells the girls to pack up their tents and tells her assistant, Dawn what she wants her to get the girls to do that day because she wants to bring the boat in to get fixed.
  Nancy leaves and about a mile out the engine blows, leaving her stranded and frustrated on the water.  Luckily, she hears the sound of another boat coming towards her that might be able to help her.  Back at camp, the girls are tying knots, learning about rappelling cables and enjoying nature.  When they hear a announcement calling them to the lake.  They run down to the beach and see Nancy bound and gagged on the boat of the people from last night.  They boat couple push Nancy overboard and the guy pulls out a rifle and starts shooting at the girls.  The girls scatter and head into the woods to escape this madman.  With no supplies and no boat, can this group of city girls survive not only the woods but this psychopath and his skanky girlfriend or will they die alone with no one to text to.
  Starring and co-written by Hallie Todd (Lizzy McGuire, Murder, She Wrote), this movie really surprised me at how dark that it got.  Once the Nancy character is killed, then the gloves are off and you can really feel the tension and fear of the girls.  Thomas Wilson Brown (Knots Landing, Boy Meets World) is a terrifying looking killer, who is slow, meticulous and seems to have no compassion for any of these girls.  They're his sport and he knows how to hunt them.  The only issue is sometimes, he's not as relentless as he should be and there are a couple occasions when you wonder why he's stopping but it's only momentary.
  The girls in the film, there's like 10 of them, I feel are playing their characters authentically.  In most movies like this, there is always the hero with some smart ass remarks and a lot of bravado but not in this, they are terrified and don't want to take on this Brown's character, which is actually refreshing and make it more real.  There's nothing extremely gruesome about the kills.  No one gets hacked apart or prayed with bullets.  What makes it creepy is how methodical each kill is and how these innocent girls are are being killed for no reason.  For a first time director, Glen Withrow really got the tone and story right with this movie and I hope he continues to make more.  Good film to watch before you hit the woods with your daughter.

2. Madman (1982) - While sitting around a campfire, an eclectic group of young campers are subjected to the horrors of one of their counselors, T.P singing a tale of a maniac in the woods.  Unfortunately after the song and scaring the youngest camper, the head counselor, Max expands on T.P.'s song and tells them the tale of Madman Marz!  Marz was an angry farmer who liked to get drunk and get into fights at the local watering hole or at home with his wife and kids.  Then one night, he got fed up with his family and decapitated the lot of them.  This was the last straw for the town, so with pitchforks and rope in hand, the villagers grabbed old Marz and strung him up on the highest tree branch they could find.  Unfortunately, the next day when the townsfolk came to check on their favourite corpse, Marz was gone!  Max, then tells the kids that they must never speak his name too loudly because he will come and kill you!  So, a "young" campers, Richie starts calling out Marz and ever one as a laugh then heads back to the cabins.
  Only during the walk back, Richie wants to go and explore, so he wanders in the direction of the old Marz farmhouse.  Nobody notices that Richie is gone because it's the last night and the counselors have their own plans.  Max decides to go into town to have some drinks and play cards, T.P. and Betsy want to get it on and the other counselors are doing there own things.  However, Richie's call did not fall on deaf ears and Madman Marz has followed the group back to the camp.  He starts by carving up the camps cook and then searches the ground for other victims.  Can this group of plucky young campers survive this low budget nightmare or are they destined to be sliced, diced and splattered all over the woods?
  This was a lot of fun to watch.  The budget on this must have been pretty low but they did a nice job with the gore and the killing scenes.  The story is pretty basic but the dialogue isn't very good and neither is the acting.  The only standout character in this is Gaylen Ross (Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow), who plays Betsy and puts on the best performance that she can.  However, with all the flaws just adds to the cheese factor and makes it fun to watch.  The special effects team does a nice job on the gore and you may even catch yourself humming the theme song afterwords.  Great film to watch in a cabin after dark.

1. Just Before Dawn (1981) - Warren, his girlfriend Constance and their three friends, Jonathan, Megan and Daniel are going camping on the land that Warren just inherited.  Unfortunately, it is quite out of the way and even the Park Ranger, Rory Mclean tells them that it isn't safe and they should head back home.  Fuck you Rory Mclean, and under the assumption that he'll be harassing them all weekend, Jonathan gives the ranger the wrong site where they will be camping.  The group waves goodbye and continues their trek into the deep dark wilderness.
  While listening to some Blondie and rocking out in their RV, Warren almost hits a very scared and drunk hunter.  They get out of the RV to see if the man is alright and the hunter tells them that he is being chased by demons! He tells them that they must escape and get out of that area! He tells them that there are demons out there and that they'll all die! Okay drunky, they gang give him some food to sober up and for his long walk back to the ranger station, then continue on their way.  The hunter sees the thing that was chasing him, latch on to their RV as it drives away.  This makes him laugh because he is free and heads on down the road.
  The gang get as far into the forest as they can and park their van, set up camp, then they hike out to explore all that nature can offer.  While trekking not far from their camp, they hear a girl singing.  They follow the voice and find a hillbilly girl collecting water.  When they try to approach the girl she freaks out and runs away. Whatever, they have a terrific afternoon and start partying when the night comes.  Unfortunately, their boombox is the first victim of there camping trip and is blown away by a hillbilly with a shotgun.  The gang is confronted by a hillbilly family, including the girl who was singing earlier.  The hillbilly dad warns them to get out or the Demons will come get'em and the gang assures them that they will be leaving tomorrow.
  The day begins but fuck those hillbilly's and the group splits up to enjoy another day of nature.  Jonathan wanders off and finds the hillbilly singing girl and the follows her as she scampers through the woods.  Unfortunately, while crossing the rope bridge to demonstrate how safe it is to the girl, he is met with a masked man with a machete, who cuts the rope on the bridge and kills Jonathan.  As the day goes on, Warren and Constance notice their friends have disappear and when they go looking for them, they discover Jonathan's body!  Can they find they're other friends and escape the hillbillies from hell or are they trapped in a Redneck nightmare!
  I thought this was really great film.  The story is simple but that's what makes it good.  There are a few notable people in this like George Kennedy (Death Ship, Demonwarp) who plays the Ranger, Chris Lemon (Wishmaster, Thunder in Paradise 1, 2 and 3) who plays Jonathan and Gregg Henry (Slither, Super, The Killing) as Warren.  The film plods a bit but has a great atmosphere and real sense of danger in the scenes.  The only issue I have is you don't ever find out what happened to Megan because it cuts to black and you are left to assume the worst.  It would have been cool to tie that up maybe after the credits.  There are some good death scenes and the special effects team does a great job.  This is a must see before you pack your tents.

So be prepared and while you sit around the campfire hearing spooky tales of haunted woods and men with hooks for hands, remember that these legends have come from somewhere and you never know if the next story will be about you.

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