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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Deep in the Woods (2000)

"So the Bad Wolf lifted the latch, and the door opened. Then he entered the house, went up to the bedroom, and gobbled up Grandma."
- The Mother (Marie Trintignant)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: November 16, 2001

Stars: Clotilde Courau, Clement Sibony, Vincent Lecoeur, Alexia Stresi, Maud Buquet
Other Stars: Francois Berleand, Denis Lavant, Michel Muller, Thibault Truffert
Director: Lionel Delplanque

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and sexulaity, and for brief language
Run Time: 01h:27m:04s
Release Date: October 23, 2001
UPC: 012236121824
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ CA-A- C

DVD Review

Five young, attractive actors have traveled into the French countryside to give a private performance of the Little Red Riding Hood story. This job promises a lucrative stipend for a small amount of work and pressure. Upon their arrival at Axel de Fersen's mansion, however, strange occurrences begin to reveal an eerie, sinister element. A serial rapist is on the loose in the area, and his victims are women of a similar age. Axel (Francois Berleand) is a strange, wheelchair-bound man with a few unexplained eccentricities. Also, his 10-year-old grandson will not speak a word and walks through the complex in a hazy stupor. When the actors start dying in gruesome fashion, this peculiarity transforms into raw terror, and no one is free from suspicion.

Lionel Delplanque's Deep in the Woods presents an extremely stylized variation on the horror genre that lifts the story above the usual conventions. The set design is remarkable and helps to create a dark, foreboding tone. The mansion offers breathtaking rooms with impressive furniture, but they also showcase the odd motivations of its prominent resident. The huge, gaping interior contains little warmth and emits a depressing, morbid feeling. Outside in the dead woods, the trees exhibit an expressionistic style that gives them an extra sense of life and possible danger. When the na‘ve characters begin wandering through the forest, this chilling atmosphere nearly guarantees that trouble is approaching.

Although this is his first feature film, Delplanque directs with an assurance and originality that should lead to a promising future. The camera moves freely throughout the sets and constantly gives us a new perspective on the events occurring. Shots often exist from a subjective viewpoint of someone viewing from hidden areas, including through an unknown keyhole. Although we lack knowledge of the viewer, this aligns the audience with this individual and provides us with a voyeuristic access to the characters. Delplanque also utilizes bright red colors to match the action with the Little Red Riding Hood story. These stark, blood-like images also increase the anticipation of impending dread that pervades the film.

The acting performances fall short of anything too memorable, but they do rank much higher than the typical Friday the 13th-style tedious roles. Each of the supporting players brings a strange presence and wisely avoids overacting. Denis Lavant is especially odd as Stephan—the bald, disturbing caretaker who is definitely hiding something. Berleand makes Axel de Fersen especially slimy with some weird, off-the-wall comments. The five leads all have a decent screen presence, but none of them are very noteworthy. They all do their best within the confines of a limited script.

Deep in the Woods provides plenty of impressive images that should please fans of the genre and others searching for innovative directing. However, it falls short in substance and reverts to a more simple horror thriller in its second half. When the bodies start falling, the action grows surprisingly less interesting and loses much of its allure. The killings are pretty violent and inventive, but I hoped for something more after an excellent setup. Delplanque presents a nice amount of startling and original images, but the story eventually lets him down in the final act.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationoyes

Image Transfer Review: Deep in the Woods offers a choice between a 1.33:1 full-frame transfer and a easily superior 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This version brings Delplanque's creative filmmaking to the forefront with intense clarity. The picture is virtually free of defects, and the black levels are extremely solid. Moving smoothly from the bright, luscious daytime scenery to the cold, dark interior, the images shine and assist in generating the eerie atmosphere.

Artisan deserves credit for including the full-frame transfer, but its effectiveness tails considerably from its companion. The shots lack the depth of the top-notch widescreen version and lessen the impact of the impressive directing.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: This disc includes a pair of remarkable 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfers for both the English and French versions. I utilized the original foreign track for my viewing, and it combines perfectly with the images to inspire tension. The audio moves very clearly throughout the sound field during the entire presentation. Early in the story, birds can be heard cackling in the distance from both sides of the transfer. Within the strange mansion, plenty of effective atmospheric noises resonate from unseen areas and increase the nervousness of the scenes.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Horror film expert Brian Yuzma
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo gallery
Extras Review: A feature-length commentary is a pleasant surprise on a relatively unknown French horror film. Unfortunately, horror film expert Brian Yuzma's track falls well short of providing an interesting experience. First of all, he recites his comments over the English language track, which subjects us to poor, annoying dubbing. Second, this scene-specific commentary offers little discussion beyond the fairly obvious symbolism. Finally, Yuzma takes extended pauses that often occur during the most intriguing scenes. There are a few decent comments about the genre and the director, but this commentary still is a major disappointment. He seems to lack enthusiasm for the story, and this leads to a dull track.

This disc also contains well-done biographies for a majority of the cast and crew. A few of the entries just contain a selected filmography, but there is still some nice background in this section. There's also a brief photo gallery of 12 shots from behind-the-scenes and the actual film. Finally, this release offers both the English and French theatrical trailers. This presents a few interesting contrasts between the two versions. The French preview lacks the foreboding narration of its companion, but it does include several nude scenes. This presents yet another example of the discrepancy between how the two countries' deals with such topics. It is fine to show blood and gore in American previews, but sex is still a taboo subject.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

First-time director Lionel Delplanque utilizes several impressive sets and plenty of engaging visuals to generate a unique visual presence for this story. Deep in the Woods stands well above the typical American teen horror film and showcases the deficiencies in our by-the-numbers cinema. However, it also becomes a victim of these same conventions and loses steam once the blood starts flowing.


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