Those early adult holidays, you know the ones you take when you have settled into the job, got some cash to spare and found your partner, the carefree ones you take before the kids come along, where you and a bunch of your mates just take off for a couple days with a boot load of booze are great, aren’t they? Well that’s what Emma (Claire Loy) and Shawn (Ross MacMahon) are thinking as their drive through the woods opens Sean Breathnack’s Irish chiller Beyond the Woods.
Arriving at Marissa (Ruth Hayes) and Jason’s (Sean McGillicuddy) isolated house, they are shocked by the terrible sulphurous smell that pervades the atmosphere. Jason explains that the pong is emanating from a recently opened sinkhole by the disused mine where what remains of the coal is burning at 800 degrees. Sealed off by the local Garda it’s been christened the Gates of Hell. Joined by the rest of their party; Ger (John Ryan Howard) who is getting over the breakdown of a long term relationship and Lucy (Irene Kelleher) and her workaholic boyfriend Ray (Mark Griffin) the gang retire back into the house.
So sleeping arrangements made they settle down for a weekend of drinking and puffing weed, but then of course the strange stuff starts happening. Trails of dirt are discovered all over the house, the lights start playing up and people start seeing fleeting glimpses of stuff in the mirrors that isn’t really there. So far just a bit creepy but, however things really starts to weird out once Ray is tempted to join Emma and Jason in a threesome while Lucy is asleep and then is gone in the morning. Tensions within the group rise, but that’s the least of their troubles, because there is someone or something very malevolent waiting out in the woods for a chance to catch them on their own.
So essentially Beyond the Woods is a body count cabin in the woods movie. For a low budget flick it’s a very good looking film. The direction is nicely paced taking a slow burn approach that neatly accelerates towards the slightly predictable conclusion. Poraic English’s cinematography is suitably dark and atmospheric and combined with some very nice sound design by Sean Breathnack and Hugo Parvery ensures that some pretty effective scares are delivered. The dialogue is very natural and cast really do interact with each other well. There is a small degree of body count victim stereotyping, but the characters are well developed avoiding the one-dimensionality of many competing body count dramas.
My only niggling problem with the Beyond the Woods is that beyond the odd hint no real explanation id given of who or what the apparently random monster is or what its relationship to the Hell Mouth is either. Given that the film is only around an hour and half long I think a little bit more context setting would have been helpful. Having said that, it is still a very enjoyable way to fill an hour or so.