EYES OF THE WOODS

EYES OF THE WOODS

Welcome to the wonderfully named Knobs Creek. It's a remote village in 16th Century rural America where a highly religious community fall foul of a local Satanist whose daughter has died under the care of the resident doctor.

To avenge her death, the warlock (Ed Pope) evokes the Devil - and in doing so is transformed into a demon himself. It doesn't do much for his looks but at least he's imbued with the power to kill all the kids in the village. And when the adults confront him, he smashes all of their heads to smithereens too.

This elongated (15 minutes) prologue ends in gory, albeit sepia-tainted style, before leading into the film's main titles.

Then we're swiftly brought up to "Present Day". Five young adults are travelling out to the sticks in their van, intent on the idea of a camping holiday in the remotest stretch of woods imaginable (don't they have regulated camp sites in America?).

After stopping at a petrol station and getting somewhat freaked out by the local hick attendant (shades of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE), the group reconvene to their van and drive slowly across rickety land towards their remote woods-based destination (hello, THE EVIL DEAD). Once there, they set up their tents and then gather round a camp fire to talk about local folklore (THE BURNING?): at this point, the legend of the warlock's ongoing plight to avenge his daughter's death - in this neck of the woods! - is brought up (a nod to far too many horror films to mention, surely).

These kids aren't scared by such local superstition though, and decide to carry on with their holidaying. Even when one of their group - stoner Kelly (Lira Kellerman) - goes missing, they don't seem too arsed. They spend a day searching for her, certainly, but by nightfall they're ready to forget all that and get on with partying again.

Only, the mood is dampened when a half-eaten human corpse falls from the sky and onto their camp fire on the second night. Suddenly pandemonium rules and the remaining four protagonists flee into the woods. Naturally, the girls - the gorgeous Alison (Elizabeth O'Brick) and her pal Nicole (Alissa Koenig) - are instantly separated from the boys.

Have they fallen foul of the local legend they were perhaps too keen to mock? Does the ghostly girl that appears to them on occasion hold the key to defeating the creature (ooh, a visual harking of JEEPERS CREEPERS)? Will Alison break the monotony at any juncture by stripping to her underwear and getting wet for no good reason?

I don't want to give away too much, but I will reveal that the answer to that latter question is "affirmative". Thank fuck, because it's the highlight of an otherwise remarkably inspiration-free film.

I'm a big advocate of the Jello Biafra "the music's alright when there's more ideas than solos" school of thought. In horror film terms, that means I don't care if a film is limited by a micro budget or a lack of technical finesse: if the creativity is there, it's easy to fill in the blanks and appreciate what it is the filmmakers were striving for.

With that in mind, I couldíve merrily excused EYES OF THE WOODSí cheap production values, terrible acting (truly dire) and ugly photography if there was even an ounce of originality about it. But there isnít.

Pilfering from all of the above horror films and more (at least the script is honest enough to namecheck THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, another movie alluded to here) weakens any argument set up by the prologue suggesting these filmmakers have a semblance of ambition. That all goes out of the window as soon as the present-tense storytelling kicks in.

Some decent gore FX and an agreeable pace are virtually all EYES has going for it. As mentioned above, the performances are diabolical (I actually felt sorry for the actors who were forced to speak in Olde English during the prologue). And the film veers so unevenly in tone between (striving to be) dark horror and juvenile comedy that it came as no surprise to learn that it was helmed by no less than three co-directors: Darrin Reed, F Miguel Valenti and Mark Villalobos.

Honestly, when the highlights of a film are the sight of its lead actress in her undies and a naked woman ambling through the woods while drenched in blood, there really isnít much left to say.

The US DVD from Lost Empire is region free and contains an uncut print of the film. Itís presented in 16x9 widescreen and appears to be correctly framed. Although colours are decent and blacks are stable throughout, there is a disappointing amount of digital noise present during darker scenes. All in all though, EYES OF THE WOOD gets a fair treatment visually.

English 2.0 audio is okay too, being clean and clear for most of the time. Some dialogue gets muffled in the mix, but thatís most likely due to how the film was shot.

The disc opens to a static main menu. From there, a static scene-selection menu allows access to EYES via 17 chapters.

Despite the back cover promising a handful of extras (Making Of documentary, Behind The Scenes footage Ö), there are none to be found on the actual DVD. Perhaps this should be considered a blessing.

I can only recommend this to the most forgiving of gorehounds. Even then, theyíre likely to feel a tad shortchanged.

Review by Stuart Willis


 
Released by Lost Empire
Region 1 NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review
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