It seems horror films tend to fall into two different sub-genres these days...Jump scares/supernatural elements or blood and guts slasher films. Either one can be very effective depending on your personal taste. Personally, I tend to prefer the former as they are more horror/thriller than gross, bloody bodies. However, the latter does serve a purpose and some people love them...in fact, the bloodier, the better they would probably say.
As we round the corner to Halloween it is inevitable that time of year once again when we see more horror films being released and one of the first ones this season is director Luis Iga's (Fashion One News) movie, Murder in the Woods. Falling into the gory/bloody category, the movie is steeped in the red, oozing stuff and half a dozen variations on how to sadistically kill people.
Jesse (Jose Julian; Shameless) is looking forward to his weekend away at a cabin in the woods. When his grandmother pleads with him not to go, as it is the anniversary of his parents' deaths, he tells her that is exactly why he wants to go. Frankly, he seems to be excited as the girl he is interested in, Celeste (Catherine Toribio; Jane the Virgin), will be going along too. As they celebrate Celeste's cousin, Chelsea's (Chelsea Rendon; McFarland, USA), birthday things begin to go horribly wrong.
Chelsea attacks Fernanda (Jeanette Samano; Reversion), after finding out Fernanda used to date her boyfriend, Gabe (Jordan Diambrini; Jane the Virgin). Fernanda leaves the cabin and when the others go out looking for her, they find her dead body. Over the next thirty or so minutes, the teenagers are mysteriously killed, one by one. When Jesse and Celeste are the only two left, the killer is revealed, along with their motive. In the end, Celeste is saved by Sheriff Lorenzo (Danny Trejo; Machete) ...or maybe she isn't, as in the final seconds, there are gunshots off-camera, making the viewer wonder who got shot.
The cast is made up of relatively unknowns with Trejo being the most seasoned in the group. The inexperience of the actors, unfortunately, is evident from the opening scene. While their performances get better throughout the film, the beginning is painful to sit through. Even Trejo could use some brushing up, making one wonder if he rises to the occasion when working with more seasoned actors or if the young cast's greenness rubbed off on him. Regardless of which it is, be assured no one is winning an Oscar with these performances.
The production value fluctuates as well. Once again, the opening is sloppy, making the viewer feel as if they were watching a senior project of a college film student. The editing is also a little uneven making the movie jumpy and the story choppy. The saving graces are the two twists at the end of the film. The first one is more predictable and the viewer, if they are paying attention, could probably figure it out while the second one...a.k.a. the gunshots offscreen at the end are intriguing and make the audience wonder who shot who or if there was a third person who kills the Sheriff and Celeste.
Murder in the Woods is not different or unique for the most part with the exception of the aforementioned ending and the all-Hispanic cast (which is unusual for American horror films). Otherwise, it is a group of friends who go to a creepy cabin for the weekend and, one by one, end up being killed. If you enjoy the gory and bloody variety of horror films, you may want to check this one out. If you prefer thrillers, this story won't be your favorite.