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Below A Dark Wood

average rating is 3 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Aug 2, 2022

Film Reviews
Below A Dark Wood
Directed by:
Bill Slovick
Written by:
Bill Slovick
Jesse Massaro, Jackie McMahon, Lucy McMahon

When will movie characters learn that you should never, ever, under no circumstances, go and stay in an isolated cabin in the woods. Quite frankly, they only have themselves to blame when some form of zombies/ghosts/monsters/demons/serial killers/insert other terrifying creature of evil turns up and ruins their time - I mean, they’re practically asking for it!


Still, in ‘Below A Dark Wood’, a man (Jesse Massaro), who clearly hasn’t seen many films, does just that and settles down for a nice quiet time in the wood with his dog (Lucy McMahon). As expected, the man is haunted - though not by evil. No, this man is haunted by his past, something to do with a woman (Jackie McMahon), who is seen only in a photograph.


That doesn’t lessen the tension, in fact, it only amplifies it. The serene sound of nature coupled with the monotonous sounds of everyday chores and activities. It’s bizarrely unsettling, and puts you on edge so that when no real shock comes, you feel slightly let down and disappointed. The ending, to an otherwise impressively tense piece, feels artsy for the sake of being artsy, and lacks any real punch.


This is for two reasons, the first being the aforementioned boiling pit of tension ultimately just ebbing away into an anti-climactic finale. The second problem arises due to the overall vagueness of the film, which, whilst it suits the tension-building side, fails to add any character to the man, and leaves us with more questions than answers come the end of the film. For instance, we don’t know the man’s relation to this woman - presumably his mother or partner - and we are unclear of his motivations in his final act towards the end of the film.


Nevertheless, this is a film which superbly builds tension, all without saying a word. The performance of Jesse Massaro is frightening - his eyes piercing into the mirror as though possessed by a spirit, and gazing down the camera sent shivers down my spine. Behind the camera, Bill Slovick does an admirable job, and frames the picture well - with some gorgeous shots of the haunting wilderness. It’s a film which feels as though it’s trying to say something, but the words just don’t come out - and not just because no words are spoken. The imagery of the man putting on a dress and some lipstick could be some veiled pointed message, however, we’re not given enough to truly follow what that message might be - in short, it’s too vague.


There’s a lot going for ‘Below A Dark Wood’, but it ultimately comes to nothing, leaving you with a sour taste in the mouth. It has all the elements of a good story - it just doesn't stick the landing, which then causes everything which came before to crumble as well. If you want a lesson on how to build tension in a short film without saying a word - then look no further - however, for an exercise in a fully-formed story you will have to look elsewhere.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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