ByJohn Mountain, writer at
John Mountain

Directed by Lucky McKee

Written by David Ross

The woods are deadly, dark and deep…

Robert Frost

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (paraphrased)

I find myself in a bad mood when my brain will not communicate with my fingers to put the right words onscreen for a film review. My wife, seeing this and wanting me calm, will always ask me the same series of questions.

What movie did you watch?

The movie in question this time is The Woods. It stars Agnes Bruckner, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel Nichols and Bruce Campbell.

What is the plot?

As the opening credits roll to Lesley Gore softly singing “Young and Foolish” we get our first glimpse of Heather Fasulo as she pours gasoline around the base of a tree and then sets fire to it. We later learn that she nearly set fire to her house and for that we watch as she is in the car with her parents on the way to the Falburn Academy, an all-girl boarding school nestled in the woods of New England. The year is 1965.

Heather, rebellious and hurt by her parent’s decision to send her away, meets the somewhat mysterious Ms. Traverse and the rest of her equally enigmatic staff including Ms. Mackinaw and Ms. Leland. She makes friends with the mousy Marcy Turner and finds a quick enemy in Samantha Wise, the school bully. It’s a typical school with the same ordinary rules, regulations, cliques and friendships as any other. At least that is what we would be led to believe. Heather hears voices coming from the woods and has strange visions of witches and axes and blood and gore. Then, one by one, the students begin to disappear with only a pile of leaves in the shape of their bodies being found in their beds the next morning. Are Ms. Traverse and her staff secretly witches? Are the woods alive? As for Heather, will she be the next one to be taken in the night-never to be seen again?

Did you like the movie?

Yes I did. The Woods is directed by Lucky McKee. McKee is the same director who brought us the disturbing and somewhat sad May and the unflinchingly brutal The Woman. I’ve never been dissatisfied with anything McKee has done and The Woods is no exception. The gore is dialed way down for the film-almost to the point of it feeling like a TV movie instead of a feature film and that’s fine. The Woods is a good film that left me feeling satisfied throughout and that I was pleased with as once again we hear Lesley Gore-this time as she sings “You Don’t Own Me” over the end credits.

Is there anything that stands out about the movie to you?

Not so much about the movie as for the minor controversy that the film unwittingly caused. The Woods was the film that caused director M. Night Shyamalan to change the name of his 2004 film from “The Woods” to The Village.

Why does this stand out above everything else about The Woods?

Because the Shyamalan film, despite its being horrible, is the one that received all the attention, even if most of it was negative. The Woods sat on the shelf for three years before being released and if you mention the two films in the same sentence to someone most have heard of The Village while few even knew The Woods existed. It’s a pity; The Woods is a superior film that I believe will stand the test of time. The Village is memorable only for its director and his predictable ‘twist’ endings. Send me into the woods in The Village and I’ll come out skipping and laughing; send me into the forest in The Woods and I will not come out at all and you will hear me screaming deep within them.

Anyway, that’s what she does and I am usually able to find the right words. I guess I’m just strange that way.


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