Girl in Woods
After a tragic accident Grace is lost and alone in the Smoky Mountains. Grace's struggle for survival is made more complicated by her troubled past. Battling the demons in her mind may be the only way to come out alive.
Juliet Reeves London
It’s moments like these, where I have to seriously re-consider my job as a film reviewer. When films so wretchedly awful cross my path – back in the old days, I could simply shut it off after it became clear that I was in for a clunker. And generally, you can tell what you’re in for within the first few moments. But since I am beholden to the powers-that-be to carry out these tasks – to inform our readers of the good, the bad and the ugly – or in this case, the very ugly – I will do my job. And now that I’ve made it through the mental anguish, the pain of rolling my eyes on an almost constant loop and symbolically walking over hot coals, here’s my review for the indie horror/thriller film, Girl in Woods.
Grace (Juliet Reeves London) is a mentally unstable young woman, who takes a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods with her boyfriend Jim (Jeremy London – same last name, yes they’re married). He proposes to her and they go on a long hike the next morning. Things go horribly wrong when Jim accidentally shoots himself with the rifle he brought along for “safety” (this happens within the first 10 minutes – so not spoiling anything), and Grace is left to fend for herself – minus her very necessary anti-psychotic/anti-depressant meds. See, Grace saw her father shoot himself in the head when she was just a young girl and also had a very strange relationship with her mother. Suffice to say, this particular girl in the woods has issues.
Juliet Reeves London delivers what is one of the worst performances I’ve seen in quite some time. Am I overstating it? Take the chance and watch the film for yourself. Is that gamble of 90 minutes of your time a risk you really want to take?
The title delivers on its promise. Yes, indeed – we are served an entire feature length film worth of Grace wandering aimlessly through the woods – battling her inner demons (including two other versions of herself) and falling prey to the elements. At least, it appears as though she is. Thing is, Reeves’ performance never indicates that she’s concerned, worried, terrified or upset about her predicament – at least not in the first 30 minutes (7 or so days in the film). I’ll allow that as the time drags on, Grace just becomes more accepting of her fate, and so Reeves’ lazy performance begins to work in the context of the film. Grace lackadaisically smokes cigarettes and listens to music on her cellphone. Like the film as a whole, Reeves offers no urgency in her work as Grace. Nothing is at stake, and her reactions to the horrific things she sees and does – painfully inadequate. So why on earth should I care? No matter how you look at Reeves’ work (Grace 1, Grace 2 or Grace 3), it’s truly an underwhelming – and honestly – terrible performance. There was even a moment early on where she wakes up – obviously confused by her surroundings, and my first thought was, “She can’t even look around without appearing fake.” Am I being far too harsh? I don’t think so. There was simply nothing genuine, true or interesting in this performance – even in the smallest of details.
Every one of the other actors in the film – aside from perhaps Jeremy London (who has a total of about 5 minutes of screen-time) – including headliner Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) are sorely lacking in any conviction or solid acting choices.
It doesn’t help that the script is absolutely atrocious. The dialogue between the three Graces was the main portion of the film where my ever-lasting eye-roll truly came into play. Their brief discussion about killing and barbequing the strange Descent-ish creature trolling through the woods was painful. Don’t get me started on that thing.
I’m going to just go there and rattle off several seemingly inconsequential details which helped to completely derail this film. The devil’s in the details, folks. So, here we go. After possibly 2 weeks of being in the woods, Grace’s eye makeup is perfectly intact. Also, Grace has been badly sunburned on her shoulders and face, and yet it’s a very heavily-wooded area – a massive canopy of tree-cover. And, with little water and no food for days (eventually she finds sustenance), Grace’s high energy levels are remarkable and her physicality is amazingly spry. And as I’ve said in previous write-ups, if these are the piddly things your audience is focusing on, you as the filmmakers have some pretty dire (and in this case) insurmountable problems.
I hesitate to even mention anything positive since I simply despised the film as a whole, but indeed, there were a few good things worthy of mention – so credit where credit is due. The fact that we see two other separate “Grace’s” as they communicate with the real Grace (multiple personalities?) was a seamless job well done by the visual effects team. I also appreciated the way the film was shot and the overall look of the final product. The picture was well lit (even in the nighttime scenes), the editing clean and the composition generally decent. The make-up and gore effects were also worthy of kudos.
And that’s it.
I never feel right about tearing a film to shreds. I understand the pains and sacrifices it takes to accomplish such a goal. But if you’re putting your film out to the public and expecting feedback, you have to take the good and the bad reviews – or as is the case here, the scathing reviews. I would frankly rank Girl in Woods as one of the most difficult, boring and irritating screenings in my brief career as a critic – if not in my entire movie-going life. And with the piles of sub-par films I’ve seen throughout my many years – that says an awful lot. The bottom line is: I’m not out to be mean. If your product fails, it fails. Simple as that.
Girl in Woods is now available on DVD/VOD. But take my advice and read these final words closely. The powers-that-be have a scoring system on our site set up to allow for a lowest possible rating of ½ star. I’d probably take this one down a bit more to a ¼ of a star – the few light compliments above keeping the film from the kiss of death.