ROOTWOOD ** USA 2019 Dir: Marcel Walz. 83 mins
Two students, Will (Tyler Gallant) and Jess (Elissa Dowling), host a podcast called ‘The Spooky Hour ” which covers all things paranormal. They are approached by Hollywood producer, Laura (Felissa Rose) to film a documentary about a local urban legend known as The Wooden Devil which resides in Rootwood Forrest. Needless to say they jump at the chance. With all the equipment they would need supplied, including head cams and a drone the guys head off with their friend Erin (Sarah French) as their camera woman. Incredibly excited about what is to come and convinced they will become famous for their findings. After a few days of searching the Forrest for evidence of missing persons they have a file on, they find some coincidental clues but nothing solid. Feeling like they are close to finding something yet having a weird sense that all is not right, it is as night falls that they find themselves been hunted by a malevolent creature and fighting for their lives rather than ratings. It may not sound like it in the description but everything from the poster art work, to the narrative text and the notorious shaky cam is all too familiar territory. It seems to become acutely aware of its similarity to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and decides to veer off in a dramatic weird directional twist by the end when in all fairness the effort kind of failed and would be been better to carried on as it was in my opinion. Fair play to the main cast who all did a good job. Elissa Dowling (Tales Of Halloween) being the stand out for me, she had quite a few scenes where you felt she was genuinely terrified. Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) was definitely a presence but a bit too over the top for my liking. The dialogue and acting style is predictable with all the usual bad decisions you would expect. The script focused far too much on the quite one dimensional characters hyperventilating over bloody symbols and random nooses lying about without really going into any detail about the Wooden Devil himself apart from a couple of half arsed stories briefly mentioned and forgotten in an instant. The good points abouts this movie would be the fantastic setting and Forrest scenery shot at the Angeles National Forrest in LA, California. It’s truly stunning with a lot of drone shots of long sweeping views above the trees. It also boasts an incredibly eerie score and fabulous sound effects that really do put you on edge. Despite the numerous jump scares and the fact you could see them coming a mile off because of the background sounds I found myself jumping on quite a few occasions. The monster starts off as just a pair of creepy hands which are really freaky and is impressively fearsome when you finally see him. There aren’t a great deal of effects and the kills are all off screen but as I mentioned earlier it does manage to convey a sense of dread effectively. I really do feel this movie would’ve been better if it had ended about three quarters of the way in and not tried the weird twist ending. Definitely not original but does create a suitably creepy atmosphere with some great scenic shots.
Review by Sarah Budd