A group of teenaged internet addicts go to a rehabilitation camp only to find something terrifying lurking in the forest. That’s the unashamedly simple premise of the trope-soaked Polish horror flick “Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight”. To its credit, this goofy and often gruesome horror flick is very open and honest about what it wants to be and it barely diverts an inch off of its path. In the process director Bartosz M. Kowalski shows off a keen cinematic eye, but don’t expect anything new in terms storytelling.
It’s opening scene will have you swearing you’re watching a spoof. A new group tech junkies arrive at the camp HQ where they are immediately relieved of all smartphones and laptops. During orientation a mutton-chopped counselor barks orders and lays out the plan for their next few days. Kids draw numbers and are broken up into groups of five. The campers we follow fit the horror movie model: the geek Julek (Michal Lupa), the sexpot Aniela (Wiktoria Gasiewska), the athlete Daniel (Sebastian Dela), the jerk Bartek (Stanislaw Cywka), ￼and the troubled good girl Zosia (Julia Wieniawa). It’s all such familiar genre fare.
The five meet their their group leader Iza (Gabriela Muskala) and set off into the woods to begin their “offline survival”. The entire hike sequence is basically a chance for the filmmakers to reinforce their character types. In other words the jerk acts like a jerk, the camera zooms in on the sexpot’s backside, the geek says really geeky things, and so on. They finally arrive at their spot and set up camp. But remember that ‘something lurking in the woods‘ I mentioned? It comes in the form of a grotesque boil-covered backwoods brute who has an insatiable appetite for all kinds of meat.
As you can guess it becomes a movie of survival as the group are trapped in the woods with no means of calling for help. In one scene the geek worriedly explains the Six Deadly Sins of Horror Movies (ala “Scream”). And of course the group breaks every single one of them, making a host of dumb choices and illogical moves leading to some bloody (and more importantly fatal) results. Slasher fans will have fun with gloriously gory kills, some of which are borrowed from other films, others that are brutally original. If you’re squeamish be warned. The second half is pretty much soaked in blood and body parts.
There are some brief moments where the writers try to add a little nuance to a couple of the characters. But these scenes end up being hammy and completely unconvincing. So with the exception of Zosia (who is paper-thin in her own right) we end up with a cookie-cutter variety of disposable players. Therefore the movie really becomes all genre and no emotional connection whatsoever. But again, Kowalski really knows how to shoot a scene and his crafty use of camera and setting always gives you something cool to look at.
The movie’s biggest stumble is in the writing. From a story point-of-view it brings nothing new to the table, borrowing from countless genre films that came before it. That wouldn’t be a big deal if it really was a spoof. But the filmmakers quickly extinguish that idea and ratchet down on the more serious horror elements. Perhaps a more optimistic view is that the film is a celebration of horror’s gory slasher sub-genre. Maybe it is attempting to say something about the importance of tech but also the dangers of dependence. I don’t know, I think it’s more dim teenagers getting hacked to bits. But that can be fun too, right? “Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight” is now streaming on Netflix.
VERDICT- 2.5 STARS