Hot on the heels of other more recent Irish film successes ‘Beyond the Woods’ hopes to deliver new chills from the Emerald isle.
The films plot sees seven friends meet up in the Irish countryside for a secluded weekend getaway. Oddly a sulphur smelling sinkhole has opened in the mountains nearby filling the area with pungent fumes. Despite the distraction of the stench the group decide not to let the noxious atmosphere get to them. Its not long before tensions in the group rise and they begin to experience bizarre and disturbing hallucinations. As the official synopsis states: What malevolent force has crawled from the sinkhole and will any of them survive the weekend?
Supernatural slasher fans will recognise that despite 30 odd years of isolated ‘accommodations’ in the woods there has been little change in the tried and tested formula, regardless of country of origin. That said it works assuming you have the right ingredients, we know the formula can work. From this regard and in terms of characters and atmosphere ‘Beyond the Woods’ plays a strong hand, its antagonist, not so much…
Sean Breathnach writes an impressive set of characters for us to get to know before their inevitable fate befalls them. Here ‘Beyond the Woods’ breaks the mould offering more intelligent and relatable personas than the angst-ridden teens we are used to seeing dispatched. The acting is strong, and whilst not perhaps equal in their impact, the relationships within the group offer up some interesting dynamics long before said ‘evil stink’ comes onto the scene.
It’s not often in horror movies I say this, but the first hour had me hooked. Indeed, had this been a drama rather than a horror I would have enjoyed an entire 90 minutes of banter, partner swapping and drunken anecdotes had the quality of script and composure remained as high.
Sadly though, in an ironic twist, it was the horror, particularly the films antagonist where the experience begins to falter. As with the story, the tension builds well in the first 2 acts, including several reasonable jump scares and the now typical (but still effective) ghost/mirror special effects. However, with as much dialogue as this film has, coupled with little to no explanation as to the true nature of the threat – i.e. other than that it’s a sinkhole opened in an area with hell in the title – it is obvious the film was shot on a budget.
Sadly, what this meant was, and this despite the outstanding effort by cast and crew, the gore was little to non-existent outside of a few scenes, the ‘creature’ came across a little to typical for my taste, and despite the more mature selection of characters and circumstances one by one they all fall into horror clichés. Don’t get me wrong, none of this is badly done, it just doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of the first hour or so.
That said, most of the films livelier moments are in the final half hour, so dependent on your tolerance for ‘character development’ you might actually enjoy this part more!
I still feel that, despite budget, the film succumbed to horror tropes rather than developing its own mystique and world, the antagonist comes across almost adolescent in contrast to the films more mature direction.
So overall, mixed feelings here. It’s a good film, with some not so good moments (as opposed to most 3/5-star movies being the opposite). I think, that, ultimately, if you enjoy the whole cabin in the woods slasher ‘thing’ then you should give ‘Beyond the Woods’ a go. It’s a shame the films lore and antagonist aren’t developed further but kudos to all involved, I’ve seen a lot worse done with a lot more budget.