THE WOODS (2006)
Throughout cinema's history and in storytelling reaching back into Shakespeare’s MacBeth and beyond, the woods and forests have always been a source of the unknown, of horrors untold, of mysteries waiting to unfold, of spooks and specters, witches and warlocks. In modern days, forests have housed unstoppable killers and unseen evil forces. McKee taps into this subconscious fear of the woods quite aptly here, sending his characters into the underbrush both in day and night, and allowing his camera to idle through the shadows and silhouettes of the treetops. The effect is both hauntingly calming and frightening. McKee even goes so far as to bring in Bruce Campbell in a supporting role, an actor who will always be synonymous with haunted forests, to ratchet up the viewer’s embedded terror of what lurks beyond the tree line.
Ross also takes his time to give depth to his supporting cast. He keeps the horror and suspense subdued through most of the first hour, limiting it to a few nightmares of Heather’s, and a fantastically paced goosebump covered ghost story that one of the students tells as a way to explain what lies in wait in the woods and its connection to the history of the school. But when he unleashes the woods in the final act, they are more terrifying and lifelike than ever before seen. Though most of the gripping, thrashing, and constricting plant life is CGI, it is wonderfully brought to the screen and meshes with the physical set and actors, serving to enhance rather than distract. And when Heather finally gets a hold of an axe, it brings forth a quick and satisfying bloodletting that plays not only for shock, but as a logical conclusion to the story that is multiple layers thick.