THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS (2019)
Directed by Raine McCormack
Written by John Hoernschemeyer, Raine McCormack
Starring Richard Hope, Therese Bradley, Rebecca Johnson, Phill Martin, Robert Vernon, Sidney Kean, Katie Alexander Thom, Beth Park, Timothy Harker, Chloe Bailey
A couple out to make a quick buck hatch a scheme with a shady woman to pose as the long lost owners of a pub called the Harbour Inn in a small town in the middle of the foggy English countryside. But upon arrival, Nicky (Beth Park) and Jason (Robert Vernon) meet some creepy old people who welcome them with open arms into their small community. Wearing a ring that used to belong to the original owners, Nicky is uncomfortable maintaining the ruse and wants to leave, but Jason, seeing an opportunity to make some money by opening the pub again, is tempted to stay. Meanwhile, strange things are happening right under Nicky and Jason’s noses, but they are too distracted with arguing with one another to notice until it’s too late.
THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS will have very familiar elements to those who have seen THE WICKER MAN, MIDSOMMAR, HBO MAX’s THE THIRD DAY, and ROSEMARY’S BABY. It’s quite obvious from the get-go what’s going on, though plot requires Nicky and Jason to be oblivious to it until the last moment. There are all kinds of creepy signs that should alert the couple to leave immediately, such as people touching their hands for a bit too long, worry dolls hanging everywhere, and the giant wood pyre being built right outside the pub steps. This makes for some solid atmosphere, what with the constant dismal fog rolling around everywhere making all outdoors scenes feel like a Kim Carnes or Black Sabbath music video from the eighties, but not the most surprising of plots. It’s pretty much obvious from the minute the couple enter the pub what they’re in store for.
The performances are strong throughout. This is a cast with solid acting talent. The main problem with THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS lays in its pacing. Because the big reveal is projected so early on, I found myself urging the movie to get on with it and have the bad guys show their cards. Eventually they do, but it takes entirely too long to do so. On top of that, the film is dreadfully anti-climactic. All of that wait and the final moments are sort of gleaned over and cut away from just when things are finally about to get horrifying. The ending is poetic in a sense, but I didn’t find the wait for it worth it.
There’s a lot of foreboding tension and rich atmosphere that makes THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS look and feel better than most low budgeters. There’s a sequence involving a goat man satyr sort of creature that is nice and unsettling as well as a scene where old people are having sex…which seems to be a must for these cultish movies these days. I found the plot to be lacking in surprises and cliched. If you’re at all familiar with those small town with an evil secret horror films, I don’t think you’ll find much new in THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS, despite its strong production values.