The Woods (2006)
Trailer-The Da Vinci Code,R.V., Ultraviolet, Zathura, Population 436
|Year Of Production||2006|
|Running Time||87:22 (Case: 89)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||Lucky McKee|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Jaye Barnes Luckett
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
“Did something in the woods do this to you?”
“No, it was the woods themselves. They’re alive Ashley- the trees - they're alive...”
Supernatural beings that can be summoned out of the “dark bowers of man’s domain” have been a source of fascination for a number of horror filmmakers. Films like Spider Forest, The Evil Dead, The Guardian and The Gardener have explored the possibility that we could be sharing our physical plane with malignant woodland creatures just out of the reach of our five senses.
Loosely based on the tree-dwelling female Dryads of Greek mythology, the narrative of The Woods modernises the mystical nature of their existence and places the action in an isolated upper-class school for gifted girls in New England, 1965. But unlike their mostly benign counterparts, who only sought retribution on those harming their environment, the nymphs in The Woods are malicious, bitter creatures.
Enter Heather Fasulo (Agnes Bruckner), whose fiery nature and rebelliousness has incurred the wrath of her uptight mother, Alice (Emma Campbell) and frustrated, hen-pecked father, Joe (The Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell). After she sets fire to the front yard, Heather’s parents decide that boarding school is the best thing for her. “Don’t let your nails get out of control,” is the only advice Heather’s mother gives as she speeds away in the car.
As the story unfolds, we learn that Heather has an extrasensory ability – not only can she hear the trees in the forest speak, which is cleverly presented as symptomatic of paranoid psychosis, but she can balance a pencil and small rocks in gravity-defying positions by simply concentrating on the them. Enmeshed with feelings of alienation and hormonal upheaval, her powers are a source of enormous anxiety until sympathetic school mistress, Ms Traverse (Patricia Clarkson) explains the nature of her special powers. However, Traverse is not what she seems and has a sinister plan that involves the evil tree-dwelling sprites and the entire student population.
The Woods is a remarkably forceful film, carefully endowed with viscerally shocking nightmare imagery and an ethereal sense of time and place. Although plot devices can be less than subtle, the film nevertheless demonstrates a keen awareness of the uncanny and the pitfalls of adolescence. Director Lucky McKee, whose May gained an army of adoring fans with its achingly and frighteningly honest portrayal of an alienated, painfully shy teenage girl, creates another similar character in The Woods. The rather unglamorously named Agnes Bruckner plays the angst-ridden Heather with aloof, yet vulnerable distinction, while the highly poised and charismatic Patricia Carlson as Ms Traverse perfectly personifies the inherent duality of Mother (Nature) – both nurturing and cruel.
Framing the characters is the gothic symmetry of the school itself and the looming proximity of the trees. Their branches seemingly caress the building as if cultivating and savoring the human occupants contained within. In the scenes where the trees do indeed come to life, the camera voyeuristically follows their sensual tendrils as they creep in through open windows then violently attack. The aftermath is a missing student who has been enigmatically replaced in her bed by a pile of leaves.
Interestingly, in The Woods there are only two male characters of note – Bruce Campbell as the ineffectual father and a local Sheriff (Gordon Currie) who suffers a rather nasty fate soon after being introduced. Their masculine presence takes a back seat to the strong, yet often fragile feminised characterisations of the students and the harsh, yet quirky all-female faculty staff.
The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
The Woods is a dark film, not only in tone but also in visual presentation. Fortunately, the transfer is excellent and is only slightly marred by intermittent print softness and a few moments of motion blur whenever there are quick camera pans (50:26 for example).
However, where it counts shadow detail clarity is sharp and penetrating, while black levels are deep and free of any low level noise. Grain is virtually non-existent and the print is very clean, showing no signs of wear.
The colour schematic of the film is often saturated in an appealing sepia tint, most noticeable within the school itself such as at 72:20. While at other times the print exhibits an effective, slightly bleached-out look akin to that of an aged black and white photo, as during the nasty hospital sequence (68:55). The overall effect is reminiscent of the otherworldly feel of Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby... Kill!, perhaps one of McKee’s stylistic reference sources.
The English subtitles are easy to read and virtually word-for-word.
The English 5.1 audio mix is a stunner. The score is a sporadically rich, immersive powerhouse of Lesley Gore’s 60s girly-pop angst. Her Young and Foolish playing over the opening scenes showing Heather during one of her pyromaniacal fits, engagingly sets the tone. Gore’s signature tune, You Don’t Own Me is overlaid with the beautiful operatic strains of a student to exhilarating effect later in the film.
The soundtrack is filled with organic ambient sounds that are used wisely for directional mood and affect. The entire school and the surrounding woodlands seem to breathe – a constant creaking of wood against wood can often be heard emanating from the rear speakers, while the wind and whispers emerging from the forest (voiced by Angelis Bettis from May) add to the eerie sense that the school and trees are living entities.
Frequent subwoofer rumblings, as at 13.22 during one of Heather’s many nightmare sequences, are used to great effect to enhance the bass.
Dialogue is crisp and clear.
|Surround Channel Use|
Disappointingly, there are only a handful of trailers for The Da Vinci Code, RV, Ultraviolet, Zathura and Population 436.
The only substantial difference between our release and the Region 1 Sony Pictures edition is that the Region 1 contains a full-frame option. However, a full-frame option is certainly not a bonus and considering our release does have more subtitle and language audio streams, our local edition is definitely worthy of your attention.
Exemplary performances by the cast, stylised cinematography, moody score and Director McKee’s creative attention to detail all fall superbly into place to render The Woods a solidly macabre tale of the supernatural.
|DVD||Pioneer DVR-640H, using S-Video output|
|Display||Yamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.|