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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
The Woods (2005)

"I just want to come home!"
- Heather (Agnes Bruckner)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: October 02, 2006

Stars: Agnes Bruckner, Patricia Clarkson
Other Stars: Lauren Birkell, Colleen Williams, Rachel Nichols, Jane Gilchrist, Bruce Campbell, Emma Campbell, Ivana Shein, Marcia Bennett, Jude Beny, Gordon Currie, Kathleen Mackey, Angela Bettis
Director: Lucky McKee

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and language, including sexual references
Run Time: 01h:31m:08s
Release Date: October 03, 2006
UPC: 043396117860
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B+B+ D-

DVD Review

The scuttlebutt around the web is that after the cult horror success of May, director Lucky McKee met with a bit of uncaring resistance when he put together his followup The Woods, and that studio politics essentially buried it for a short time.

Its appearance as a straight-to-DVD title, courtesy of Sony, isn't quite the happy news it could have been, as this barest of barebones version does in fact carry McKee's finished film, but nothing in the way of extras. This release has all the earmarks of an "obligation" on Sony's part, a kind of toss-it-out-and-see-who-notices maneuver that carries some ugly "floating head" cover art, and basically no mention of McKee save for the back cover, where the red text on a black background makes it virtually impossible to read.

But enough of me bitching about the inept marketing of The Woods, because even with what appears like some studio intervention in the way it plays out, it still carries McKee's touch. And it's darn creepy fun, too. It's 1965, and poor Heather Fasulo (Agnes Bruckner) is being carted off to ominous Falburn Academy by distant parents (Emma Campbell and Bruce Campbell) because it seems she's a bit of handful, and has a propensity for setting fires. The academy is operated by the quietly stern Ms. Traverse (Patricia Clarkson) and her crew of uptight, twitchy headmistresses, and it's clear right away that something ain't right when Heather takes a "scholarship exam" that involves a paper cut and circling a series of very strange cryptic figures.

Too many more plot revelations would spoil the fun (as does Sony's backcover blurb), and the debut screenplay from David Ross doles out the horror breadcrumbs in small batches, as Heather struggles to keep her sanity as she befriends the timid Marcy (Lauren Birkell) and puts up with abuse from bitchy Samantha (Rachel Nichols), all the while being plagued by some kind of presence from the deep woods that surround the academy. Things may move a little slowly for horror fans expecting a constant barrage of gore, and though things do get a bit nutty in the final act, The Woods is more of a mood piece broken up by the occasional jump scare.

There's fine use of a few Leslie Gore tunes here, capped by a beautifully odd remix of You Don't Own Me, presented as an overlay mix with an operatic vocal track blended in to give the song a bizarre and eerie feel. The Convent may have used You Don't Own Me perfectly as a bed for some troubling horror visuals, but McKee's usage here comes a close second for sheer dramatic punch. And much like The Convent, I can almost recommend The Woods solely for that element.

Maybe not the next rung up after the where-the-hell-did-that-come-from sensation of May, but McKee's The Woods displays a horror director with an obvious penchant for not always doing things the way they've been done before. Nice performances from Bruckner and Clarkson, and the rumor is studio noodling neutered McKee's vision, which is just a damn shame no matter how you slice it.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Sony offers up 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 fullframe transfers, both on the same side of the disc; bypass the fullframe, and take in the widescreen option. Despite muddy blacks during some of the night scenes, the bulk of the presentation carries a dominant reddish gold and/or brown palette, rendered here with an even, pleasing consistency, with warm, natural fleshtones.

Not perfect, but considering the budget it's very attractive nonetheless.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: An effectively moody Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, full of plenty of rear channel creaks and spooky whispered voices, with the fronts handling speech with proper clarity. The Leslie Gore moments, including the hip "overlay" remix of You Don't Own Me, sound deep and fullbodied, and the occasional sub activity for the big jump scares sounds strong, too.

Very nice.

A French 2.0 dub is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Wah-Wah, I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, The Dark, Population 436
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Nothing here but a few trailers, and none for the feature. What a shame. The film is cut into 12 chapters, with optional English or French subs.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

The Woods, for all of its marketing foibles, is still a Lucky McKee film deep down, and for that reason alone there's much to enjoy. Horror fans should seek this one out and take pleasure where they can get it.

Highly recommended.


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