Into the Woods (2008)

Stripped of everything.
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Into the Woods - Stripped of Everything

Into the Woods is a low budget psychological terror movie from independent horror director Phil Herman with a definite influence from the exploitation genre. Although low on shocks and gore (but not completely deficient), the confusing twists and turns of the plot create an unsettling atmosphere and a genuine empathic dread for the distressed damsel at the centre of the madness. The movie begins in a fairly traditional, forward flowing manner but soon transforms into a sporadic and disturbing medley of flashbacks, delusions and dreamlike sequences making the viewer question what is really happening in the woods, as the plot progresses the flows of the different sections of story become inexplicably intertwined which bumps up the confusion a notch and draws the viewer deeper into the scenario as they are compelled to understand what the fuck is going on.

The tale revolves around the never quite fully dressed Danielle, and her impending understanding of what happens when she asks her philandering lover of five years to leave his wife and commit to their relationship. It is not too far in the future that she discovers that what happens is you wake up in an abandoned building deep in the woods, naked and with no memory of how you got there. Dressing herself in some clothes that are laying around and some very impractical hiking high-heels she sets off into the woods and soon stumbles upon a bag with some more suitable clothes, practical shoes, a note explaining that she has been drugged to wipe her memory (although it should return soon) and that she is participating in some sadistic vengeance game. Unable to remember her life before waking up in the woods, Danielle cannot understand who is doing this to her or what would motivate them to do it.

As the story evolves and Danielle begins to regain her memory she begins to suspect that having ruined her now ex-lovers family life (by informing his wife that his underwear was still in Chez-Danielle) he is the prime suspect in the whole kidnap affair. Having no other option Danielle continues to stumble around the woods trying to piece together the puzzle that is her current predicament. More of her past doings become apparent as more of her memory returns and Danielle begins to remember thing that could not have happened (such as her own suicide) and the memories seem distorted and injected with uncharacteristic behaviours from those closest to her. As the flashbacks become more bizarre the viewer begins to suspect that the movie is playing out in some alternate reality and that all is not as straightforward as originally assumed... and their suspicions would be correct.

Into the Woods is a very audacious movie for an independent film maker to attempt and although obviously produced on a tight budget it manages to create a compelling horror experience and ending that inspires a re-watch of the movie with a different frame of mind due to the realisation of what was really going on. A special mention must also go to Nancy Feliciano (the lead actress) for effecting what must have been a very demanding role. Overall, despite lacking the fine tuning of a big budget movie, Into the Woods will stand out on the independent movie scene as a well executed exploitation flick with a surreal horror twist.
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