Lots of movies made on a shoestring budget will end up feeling like badly crafted high school film class crapfests – bad acting or bad scripts, horribly shot and with worse direction. Brandon Prewitt (co-writer, The Campground) made his most recent film The Woods Within on a micro-budget of less than $10,000, but you wouldn’t be able to tell with the production he’s put together.
Based on a classic ‘teens party one last time before graduation’ premise, a group of popular kids plan a night of drinking and debauchery in the woods around a relative’s farmhouse. Of course, tagging along is a younger brother, tormented endlessly by the popular crowd, and his equally detested best friend.
After a night of drinking, trying (and failing) to score, and talking shit about each other, the group wakes up the next morning, groggy but somehow not hung over, to find one of their friends dead. Instead of banding together to find out what is happening, they are all instantly separated, accusations flying about who is to blame, as teens are continuing to be killed off one-by-one. Exploding cars, bear and wire traps, guns, and bow and arrow deaths ensue.
Although perhaps skewed slightly to the cliché side when it comes to story, Prewitt makes up for it with a well-cast film that pits many newcomers into the mix. Lots of times these kinds of films end up pushing for a sort of gritty realism with effects or gore, and leave dialog as a last-minute afterthought. In Woods, Prewitt has written (and shot) a very well put together film; dialog actually sounds much like teenagers would talk – bickering with each other, catty and douchebag one-liners, and mean-spirited teasing. It makes for a cast of characters that you are itching to see killed off.
Although a little dark in some sections of the nighttime scenes, the daytime shots are gorgeous, with rich colors including the green of the forest and the red of the blood. As the doomed teens are running through the woods, the camera moves in lower and tighter, bringing a heightened sense of tension to what could otherwise just be a basic, boring atmosphere. A great, moody score helps to add to the film’s overall sense of death and what’s coming.
Overall a great independent feature with a cast of newcomers who more than hold their own in the genre, The Woods Within is a fun watch. The reveal at the end comes as no surprise to viewers familiar with horror, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t come with some good fun and some stone-cold violence. Suffice to say, this movie delivers no happy ending.
Prewitt’s next project is a ‘requel’ (a remake and a sequel) to The Campground, a film he co-wrote and produced with business partner and director Roman Jossart. (The Campground gets a nice nod in this film in the form of a movie poster on a character’s bedroom wall. It’s always kind of a silly little joy for me to see filmmakers reference their own works.)
If The Woods Within is any indication, Prewitt is a director to watch. It’ll really be something to see what he can do if given a larger budget and a bigger production in the future.