New Releases for Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Witches in the Woods
Directed by: Jordan Barker
Run time: 90 minutes
The Lowdown: Witches in the Woods falls into a very specific type of horror genre that fans have come to know all too well.
It’s a film that teases, often through its title alone, that it will deliver on the promise of a particular kind of monster or evil entity, and then consistently fails to do just that for the majority of its run time.
Witches in the Woods is the fifth film from director Jordan Barker (and based on this, I won’t be checking out his other four horror movies anytime soon), and was written by Christopher Borrelli, who did the screenplay for 2015’s exorcism/possession found footage fiasco, The Vatican Tapes.
The film is about seven friends, three girls and four guys, who are on leave from the University of Massachusetts and driving to a ski vacation in the mountains.
Right off the bat, there are issues straining the group dynamic.
The main girl is Jill (Hannah Kasulka), who finds herself in a love triangle with current boyfriend Derek (Craig Arnold) and secret crush Philip (Corbin Bleu), who are former teammates, although the sport is never directly stated.
Derek was present when Jill’s friend Alison (Sasha Clements) was sexually assaulted, a traumatizing event that has left her vacant and distant. Jill doesn’t know that Derek was there, however.
Also along for the ride are loud-mouth brothers Tod (Kyle Mac) and Matty (Alexander De Jordy), and Matty’s selfie-obsessed girlfriend Bree (Humberly González).
Long story short, no one is happy inside the cramped SUV, and then they learn that the main road they’re traveling has been closed down for an accident. Tod swears he knows a shortcut, even though it is miles off-course.
When they stop to pee, but not get gas (?!?), Jill has a conservationist freak-out on a local hunter who has killed a bear while Bree finds a tourist pamphlet for a local historical site where witches were burned at the stake.
As the group drives and drives deeper into the snowy woods, Alison starts acting weird, as if she senses something wrong about the barren landscape outside.
Derek crashes his SUV during a jealous fit when he spies Philip looking at Jill inside the cabin. Alison wanders off, then comes back, then blacks out when she tries to run Derek over as the group struggles to get the SUV back on solid road.
By the 44-minute mark, which is basically halfway through the film, absolutely nothing has happened. This is a problem.
Tod and Alison decide to try to walk to find help. Alison returns covered in blood. They put her inside the SUV. She has a seizure. Then she bites one of Bree’s fingers nearly off, which causes Bree to fling backward, impaling her shoulder on a ski pole.
Suddenly, Matty proclaims that the land clearly is cursed and holds up the tourist pamphlet. Then he wanders off to find his brother.
By now, we’re 54 minutes in, it’s night and it’s snowing and nothing of interest has occurred.
At the 70-minute mark, Alison is unconscious in the SUV, Bree is in shock from her wound and unconscious and everyone else is looking for Matty and Tod in the woods.
I’ve yet to see a witch, whether in the woods or just flying the fuck by on a broom.
One character finds a body in the woods, then gets caught by a bear trap. Another character is discovered dead in the SUV. And yet another character goes into a crazed rage and kills a friend.
Finally, we’re down to a two-person standoff, which ends when the bear hunter from earlier suddenly reappears after having tracked the group’s tire impressions through the snow.
At the 86-minute mark, Witches in the Woods ends with one of the worst horror tropes – a flash in the eyes where a character’s normal retina colors changes from, say, blue to all-black, meaning they’re possessed.
And then it thankfully, finally ends.
Suffice to say, avoid at all costs.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No. Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – Apparently, a witch.
Buy/Rent – Neither.
The Gentlemen (Universal, 114 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised to admit this, but The Gentlemen is by far the third-best film Guy Ritchie has made in his 22-year career.
It’s obviously behind Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, his undisputed masterpiece, but The Gentlemen is a bona fide return to form for Richie’s signature cockney gangster action-comedies, and it’s so, so, so much better than the eye-fuck-excess of his two Sherlock Holmes pictures, as well as Aladdin and King Arthur too.
In fact, The Gentlemen is the best film Ritchie has made in the past 20 years, which might seem like a pretty thin compliment given that that honor previously fell to 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which was enjoyable but mediocre at best.
The Gentlemen benefits from a rousing, hysterical turn by Hugh Grant as a sexually fluid private eye named Fletcher, who basically narrates the plot to Ray (Charlie Hunnam), the top lieutenant to the UK’s weed wunderkind Michael Pearson (Matthew McConaughey).
All the classic Ritchie hallmarks are on display, including rat-a-tat-tat dialogue, brutal action and enough clever camera tricks and directorial flourishes to over-stuff multiple movies.
Yet, it works, and works well for long stretches. And, thankfully, there’s not a single blue-hued Will Smith to be found.
Why Don’t You Just Die! (Read BVB's glowing review in Creative Loafing.)
1BR (Read BVB's glowing review in Creative Loafing.)
Not to be Overlooked:
Ouijageist (Wild Eye Releasing, 77 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Truth be told, Ouijageist (which would only be a good title if the film attached was equally as good) should be overlooked, unless you’re a fan of overly familiar horror tropes and/or simply love movies that look like you too could have directed it at your own home.
Ouijageist opens in Switzerland for no particular reason. A guy runs into a remote cabin, finds a discarded witchboard and a corpse and immediately grabs the board and races back outside, sprinting until he reaches a ravine where he drops to his knees and starts cackling.
Oh, and he’s also being watched by a man whose face we never see.
Next up, we’re in England where news reports are talking about the guy from the opening who has been missing for several days.
India Harper (Lois Wilkinson), her daughter and her mom move into their new home. Almost immediately, like before a single box is unpacked, India discovers the witchboard buried in her back yard.
Her Realtor stops by, and he instantly recognizes it. He too calls it a witchboard and says some local kids used to use it to summon the spirits of the recently deceased.
The witchboard keeps showing up in every room that India is in.
Finally, when a female friend comes over for Netflix and chill, India prompts her to play with the witchboard. When India asks the board a question, the front door flies open and her friend’s car alarm starts squawking.
Nothing to worry about, folks. This happens all the time.
The friend goes upstairs for something and gets clipped by a possessed baby gate. She falls down a flight of stairs, ends up in the ER and eventually dies.
Three weeks later, all sorts of strange shite is happening, but honestly, none of it is very interesting.
Though I kept watching, and even though Ouijagesit is a scant 77 minutes long, it felt interminable.
By the time the movie finally got to some good old frothing possessed entities, I couldn’t help but laugh at how annoying the ghosts were with their intermittent screams and howls.
I won’t even get into the ending, which is super anticlimactic and fails to answer a single question about what you’ve just watched.