Right from the pre-credits sequence - a long tracking shot up to a door, through its keyhole and into the room beyond, where a woman recites the tale of Red Riding Hood, only to be brutally murdered - it's clear that Deep In The Woods is going to be one hell of a ride.

The credits roll, Funny Games style, as a troupe of five young actors drives toward their destination - an isolated chateau in the woods where they are to put on their performance of Little Red Riding Hood for an eccentric aristocrat.

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The radio reports that a maniac is on the loose in the vicinity. The gamekeeper, Stephane - played by Denis Lavant - is interested in trapping and taxidermy. The chateau is filled with hunting trophies and there's a harpoon gun casually lying about. Right now most sensible folk would be thinking about leaving. But not our thesps.

Wheelchair user Baron Fernsen shows up, displays a dubious interest in Wilfried, the only one of the five apparently here alone (the others being in one heterosexual and one lesbian pairing) and has Stephane show them to their rooms.

Later, the actors put on their performance to an audience of two - Baron Fernsen and his deaf-mute son Nicolas. After the play, "the most dangerous game" starts...

The horror genre has never been that important to French film-makers. Instead directors like Jean Rollin and Georges Franju make 'fantastique' films in which the horrific and the poetic are intermingled and where narrative logic comes a distant second to style and atmosphere.

On the strength of his debut feature director Lionel Deplanque belongs with this elite group. He and his collatorators know there's no way to use familiar motifs such as the castle, the mad aristocrat and the fairy story with originality, so they heighten the artifice of the piece and place everything as if in quotes: 'this is the obligatory lesbian scene', 'this is the scene where the killer's improbable motivation is explained', and so forth.

Sexy, slick and - yes - gory, Deep in the Woods is a fascinating meditation on the fantastique. It's like the continental version of Scream, as if Kevin Williamson had grown up with the films of Rollin, Mario Bava and Jess Franco rather than Halloween and its offspring.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Deep In The Woods packshot
Horror tale revolving round retellings of Little Red Riding Hood.
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Read more Deep In The Woods reviews:

Nicola Osborne ***
Keith Dudhnath **

Director: Lionel Delplanque

Writer: Annabelle Perrichon, Celine Breuil-Japy, Pierre Alain Lods

Starring: Clotilde Courau, Clement Sibony, Alexia Stresi, Vincent Lecoeur, Maud Buquet

Year: 2000

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France


EIFF 2000

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