The Woods short film review

★★★

Directed by: #RobbieLemieux

Written by: #RobbieLemieux

Starring: #JeannaSchweppe, #MaggieStack

Film Review by: #DarrenTilby



The problem with a film that begins life as a ‘proof-of-concept’ before then being touted as a ‘short film’, is that the two are completely different concepts with completely different goals: short films generally comply with the same rules as a feature-length but are, quite obviously, shorter. Whereas a proof-of-concept is more a glorified trailer for a longer movie. And as such, things like character development and plot, kind of don’t exist. Of course, there are films (of any length) which completely discard the rule book. But these need to compensate in other ways, or they risk frustrating its audience and obfuscating its story or message.


Take short film, #ExcursiontotheMountains, for example. Another short film with a 4-minute runtime, where we join the story part way through, not knowing the character or the exact circumstances of the situation we find her in. The difference here is that during the film’s duration, we’re gifted subtle visual and metaphorical clues which really help to flesh out the story and character. Making for a much richer viewing experience overall.


But this isn’t what we find when we look at The Woods. Consider its plot: a woman staying in a cabin in the woods experiences sheer #horror when her daughter is lured away into the woods by an unknown man. It’s a classic #horror set-up for sure, but it lacks context. We know nothing else. Where are they? Why are they there? We never find out, and there’s no cleverly hidden trace of an allusion to be found either. For a proof-of-concept piece, this isn’t a problem; for a short film, however, it is.


Similarly, when we look at its characters, we aren’t able to dissect their personality or talk about character arc. How could we? We don’t join them at the beginning of their story, and I don’t believe we see them at its end either. Instead, we come in and depart somewhere in between, and that kind of makes it hard for us to sympathise. Nevertheless, performances from Jeanna Schweppe (Alison) and Maggie Stack (Charlie) are of a high standard and the peril they encounter (a nightmare scenario for any parent) does draw you in—to a certain degree.


The Woods does find a saving grace in its visual and sound design, however. #SancheevRavichandran’s #cinematography is bristling with that eerie cabin-in-the-woods #atmosphere of seclusion and dread. Although I feel it would have benefited from having a camera of higher quality, just to sharpen the visuals. Sound design is, perhaps, the film’s greatest asset; it strikes the perfect balance as it switches from using ambient sounds, to #SeanLeonard’s brilliantly understated, anxiety-inducing #score.


I know it may seem like I haven’t enjoyed this film—but that really isn’t the case. But my feeling is that The Woods works better as a proof-of-concept than it does as a stand-alone short film. The reason being is, at only 4-minutes in length, there really isn’t enough done to establish a rapport with the characters or an understanding of its setting. What it did do, however, is leave me intrigued and wanting more: I want to learn about its setting, and I want to get to know these characters and what becomes of them. It did everything a good proof-of-concept film should, and I will be seeking out the feature-length movie when it’s released.