Although it isn’t always the case, youthful (15-21 years of age) independent actors/directors aren’t always entirely reliable. Although I’ve seen quite a few great independent films made by high-schoolers, I’ve also sat through some incredibly immature comedies along the way. Yet, sometimes you run into a film that seems as if it was made by a group of friends who have known each other forever. It’s the sort of group that is bonded through life experiences, and their chemistry helps them do amazing things. While I’m not here to promise readers that What Teenage Girls Do in the Woods is going to be an amazing experience for every potential viewer, I will say that in some ways it captures "youth" in a very unique way. There’s no hard partying, there’s no loss of innocence, but instead it’s a strange concoction of absurd humor and surprising emotional depth.
The plot for What Teenage Girls Do in the Woods is fairly simple to a point. Two best friends, Matt and Jeremy, meet three lovely young girls at the grocery store. It appears that the ladies are going to France park to camp out over night. Although Matt and Jeremy have neither camping experience nor camping supplies, they quickly fib and claim that they are doing the exact same thing. When the duo arrive at the park, they find the girls setting up their tents. After revealing that they have no tent of their own, they end up sleeping in one of the two tents that the girls brought. However, in the middle of the night they hear something stirring. They see the girls wandering out in the darkness. Once they follow, they do indeed learn What Teenage Girls Do in the Woods.
Although some reviews for the short are likely to reveal exactly what it is that happens after the boys follow the girls out into the woods, I think I’ll sidestep that and consider it a spoiler. It happens after the halfway point in the short, so it seems like it is something that is best left for the viewer to discover. This revelation within the woods though, it is actually humorous to a degree. Yet, despite being rather absurd in nature, the scene in which the big secret is revealed is played in a rather demented fashion. The viewer isn’t sure whether the movie is asking for us to laugh or whether the intention is to be scary. If I were to describe exactly what it is that "teenage girls do in the woods," it would certainly inspire laughter. However, the way in which it is presented in the movie, it’s quite the ominous and bizarre revelation. Yet, this contradiction in tones is precisely what makes this short such a delight. This short is a comedy for the most part, with the characters of Matt and Jeremy delivering the majority of the punchlines, but during the final minutes of the short, things drift from being offbeat and humorous to sentimental and touching. While on paper this tonal shift should not feel organic, due to the way that Matt and Jeremy are developed, the movie feels very natural. These characters ultimately have an experience that is completely bizarre, but What Teenage Girls Do… manages to capture the emotional disconnect that many friendships eventually go through. The movie doesn’t necessarily build towards this through foreshadowing or any sort of preconceived goal, but the free-flowing narrative manages to reach this on its own and it still comes across as real and tangible.
From a technical standpoint, the short looks great. The night sequences are actually very well done, which is not always an easy thing to do on a shoestring budget. Although it is obvious that there was not a lot of money spent on the movie, they manage to cover this up with solid post-production work and solid performances by the entire cast. Indeed, actors this young rarely have a great cinematic presence, but this is a surprising troupe of actors. The two main leads have great chemistry and show a lot of promise. The same can be said of the three female leads who go on the camping trip. All of the leads manage to present themselves in a realistic fashion, while managing to emote without going over-the-top. This is a comedy, of course, so the performances aren’t exactly On the Waterfront, but there’s a lot of charisma to be found in this young cast.
Overall, I have to throw a lot of support behind What Teenage Girls Do in the Woods. It is well made, has several big laughs, and somehow manages to even deliver a rather poignant message. This is a promising venture for these young filmmakers, and I’ll be interested in seeing what they do in the near future. You can read more about the project via the official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WhatTeenageGirlsDoInTheWoods