Take a bunch of friends, send them to an isolated cabin in the woods, and booze, drugs, and interpersonal tension and you have the start of countless horror movies ranging across many sub genres. Now Irish director Sean Breathnach makes his feature length debut using this premise, and manages to do something very creative and different with it.
Having drifted apart over time a group of friends decides to reconnect in a secluded cottage out in the Irish countryside. However a large, smelly sinkhole has recently opened nearby, it’s fumes somewhat dampening the mood. As night falls, pints are emptied and joints smoked people begin acting oddly. Is it intoxication, are the fumes possibly having an effect, or is the pit really, as one character jokes “the gates of hell”? As the second day dawns with one person missing and the strangeness continuing it becomes clear that something is wrong and their lives depend on finding out what.
Shot with a low budget but a lot of talent the film manages to stay interesting despite a fairly slow start as we meet and get to know the characters. This could have been a tedious and dull start but the dialogue is crisp enough, with just enough references to the sinkhole and interesting events in their shared past to be informative without feeling expository. This is a very good thing, as this being a low budget film a lot of it is dialogue and character driven. There are effects, and damn good ones, but they’re used judiciously through the film’s running time.
Once the film gets going it is distinctly creepy and tense, the plot taking enough twists to keep you from figuring out just what is going on something that extends up to an ending I didn’t expect. And it does all of this without relying on loads of gore, it works like an updated version of the older films many of us grew up watching on Saturday afternoon TV. One note in that regard however, the film’s poster showing an axe wielding figure does it a disservice, this isn’t a simple slasher, Beyond the Woods is a full blown supernatural mindfuck of a movie.
Ireland has been on something of a roll lately when it comes to genre films, producing the likes of Grabbers, The Hallow and A Dark Song. Beyond the Wood continues that tradition. It’s currently making a tour of festivals where it’s scored several well deserved awards and should hopefully get a general release soon. This is indie horror done right, see it and support it