Combustible Celluloid
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With: Agnes Bruckner, Emma Campbell, Bruce Campbell, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel Nichols, Lauren Birkell, Kathleen Mackey, Jane Gilchrist, Catherine Colvey, Marcia Bennett, Cary Lawrence, Colleen Williams, Gordon Currie, Melissa Altro, Maia Balestriri, Maggie Castle, Amber Cull
Written by: David Ross
Directed by: Lucky McKee
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and language, including sexual references
Running Time: 91
Date: 09/29/2015

The Woods (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Tree Party

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I had wondered what happened to Lucky McKee after he broke onto the horror scene with his outstanding film May (2002). For some reason I hadn't seen anything of his in all that time until last year's not-so-good All Cheerleaders Die, a remake of a video McKee made just out of film school. Apparently something called The Woman was making people squirm a few years ago, but I missed it. Now here comes The Woods, a movie from 2006 — I'm not sure it ever had a theatrical release — getting a Blu-ray release in 2015. Fans didn't seem to like it much, but I found it wonderfully atmospheric, with several appealing performances, even if the plot doesn't always make sense.

Agnes Bruckner stars as Heather, a bad girl who likes to start fires. It's the 1960s, and her stern, selfish mother (Emma Campbell) and henpecked father (the great Bruce Campbell) drive her to her new all-girls boarding school deep in the woods of New England. The headmistress (Patricia Clarkson) eyes her coolly, and she has a run-in with a blonde bully (the terrific Rachel Nichols), but she also makes a friend, Marcy (Lauren Birkell). From there, things get weird. Heather has some nightmares, we hear some spooky stories, there's a teacher with a strange head-twitch, and some odd-looking milk. Then Heather sees things that may or may not be nightmares. Girls start to disappear (their beds are filled with dead leaves), and of course, there's a warning: don't go in the woods.

I was worried that Bruce's character would only get picked on by the domineering wife, but in the end, he gets to do his thing, coming to his daughter's rescue with an axe. (He doesn't get to say "groovy" or anything like that, but it's still cool.) It's a good thing Bruce is around for the ending, because once everything is revealed, and all the suspense and surprise are gone, we need something to perk it up. Bruckner is a fine addition to the movie; she's pretty but not fragile and she seems like she could stand up to a pack of monsters. McKee makes the movie work not only through this cast, but also through the use of location, light, weather, and sound, making for a delightfully creepy flavor. Olive Films released the Blu-ray, rescuing it from the MGM vaults. The only extra is a trailer.

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