The Village In The Woods


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Village In The Woods
"Using simple woodland locations and a cluster of crumbling old buildings, McCormack sets out to build atmosphere by layering on the fog."

A young couple anxious to improve their lot in life. A remote village, hard to find on maps. Local people whose friendliness verges on the creepy. A mysterious, troubled old man who visits a grave among the trees. The Village In The Woods has all the ingredients of classic British folk horror and although it falls short of its ambitions it certainly captures the atmosphere that inspired director Raine McCormack.

Jason (Robert Vernon) and Rebecca (Beth Park) arrive at the village on a planned excursion complicated by car trouble, so it's clear from the start that getting out will not be as easy as getting in. They're there to take ownership of the long-abandoned local pub, letting the locals think they plan to re-open it when in fact they plan to sell. Their secrets go deeper than this but nevertheless, they're fairly sympathetic, former inhabitants of a children's home looking for the break that will enable them to get off benefits and make a proper go of life. The trouble is that the locals have secrets too and with every hour they spend in the village, the couple become more deeply ensnared.

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Using simple woodland locations and a cluster of crumbling old buildings, McCormack sets out to build atmosphere by layering on the fog. It's a great tool for low budget filmmaking, hiding a variety of sins, but in this case it seems to have affected the script as well as the set, with vagueness creeping in a little too often to try and hide the weaknesses in the plot. Despite the information initially withheld, there really isn't enough of this for 82 minutes of film. McCormack (who also co-wrote) pads it out with a lot of unnecessary and repetitive scenes which weigh the film down and risk prompting unintended laughter. There's only so often one can cut away to five or six actors pretending to fill a pub with laughter before it becomes absurd.

There are also problems with the acting. Therese Bradley's turn as a local aristocrat of sorts seems intended to produce some comedy but is so overwhelmingly hammy that it destroys the tension every time it appears. Several members of the supporting cast give the impression that they're trying to project for a stage audience rather than fit what they're doing to the medium at hand. Fortunately the leads are better, Vernon's performance having sufficient conviction to make him a good anchor point for the action and Park coping fairly well with a role that requires her to make some odd emotional leaps back and forth.

There's a central idea here that's well suited to the subgenre and associated details contribute nicely to the Seventies style which McCormack was apparently aiming for. The overall narrative is underdeveloped, however, and there's just not enough happening to overcome all the aforementioned problems. The Village In The Woods is easily recognised as a first film, one whose creators were learning on the job, and despite a few effective moments it just doesn't hang together.

The Village In The Woods will be available on Digital Download from 14 October.

Reviewed on: 10 Oct 2019
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The Village In The Woods packshot
A young couple travel to a remote village to take ownership of its pub with a view to selling it, but begin to suspect that something strange is going on.

Director: Raine McCormack

Writer: John Hoernschemeyer, Raine McCormack

Starring: Robert Vernon, Richard Hope, Therese Bradley, Rebecca Johnson

Year: 15

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: UK


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