out of Five
Running time: 82
Engaging, atmospheric and frequently scary, this is an effective Blair Witch knock-off with strong performances from all three leads.
What's it all about?
Directed by Richard Parry, A Night in the Woods stars Scoot McNairy as Brody, a camcorder-obsessed American twentysomething who agrees to go on a camping trip to Wistman Woods, near Dartmoor, with his British girlfriend Kerry (Anna Skellern) and a guy he's never met before that she introduces as her cousin Leo (Andrew Hawley). When the trio arrive they hear local legends about the woods being haunted by a sinister figure called The Huntsman who hangs sinners from trees, but that doesn't stop them cheerfully venturing into the area anyway.
Needless to say, it isn't long before the three have lost their way and all manner of spooky goings-on start occurring. At the same time, Brody becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the closeness of Leo and Kerry's relationship and decides to set up hidden cameras to monitor them when he's not around.
The performances are excellent and the script does a good job of shifting your sympathies between the three; for example, initially, the audience shares Brody's suspicions about Leo (and exactly why Kerry has brought him along in the first place), but when cracks start to appear in the relationship, you start to wonder if maybe Kerry has brought Leo because she doesn't trust Brody. Similarly, the relationship dynamics are heightened by believable dialogue that was largely improvised between all three leads.
Parry's direction ensures a suitably tense and creepy atmosphere throughout and there are plenty of effective scares. Like Blair Witch, the film is smart enough to recognise that the mere act of getting lost in the woods in the dark is already pretty scary and the relationship reveals are often just as disturbing as whatever's making the noises in the woods. The film also has some impressive sound design work and makes good use of the night vision cameras, particularly during one memorably creepy extended sequence.
Overall, the found footage conceit largely works (assuming you're not sick to death of found footage movies by now), though you do inevitably end up questioning why the characters would keep filming after a certain point. Similarly, having set up its impressive location, the film doesn't ultimately put it to that much use, outside of the daylight hiking scenes.
A Night in the Woods is a worthy entry in the found footage horror movie genre, thanks to some atmospheric direction, a decent handful of genuinely scary moments and superb performances from all three leads. Worth seeing.