13 February 2018



I usually enjoy a nice independent Irish horror film as they tend to be mostly woods-based, lol. We have a load of grand wooded areas here in Ireland. I love it when a good old scary forest is the central character, as it were, of the movie, because when the nice comforting daylight fades and the first fingers of night begin to claw at the sky, who knows what might come creeping out of the leafy darkness?

Ooooh-er, I impressed myself hugely there with that poetic sentence, haha. Who says a bottle of wine at lunchtime impairs the ability to good English write? I'll show them. I'll show them all...

Anyway, BEYOND THE WOODS scores on both counts, as in, firstly I enjoyed it and secondly, it's very much woods-based, despite the title. It's one of those films that seem to work very well here in Oireland, a film where an annoying bunch of friends with their stupid little in-jokes that they think are so great all come together for a weekend in a house in the country to get away from it all. Fyi, the rest of us have friends and in-jokes too, jerks.

Then the house or the area turns out to be haunted and the weaknesses in the couples' relationships or friendships are thrown into stark relief against the background of mounting horror that's building up inexorably around them. My God, I'm fabulously eloquent tonight. I'm putting wine on the menu every lunchtime from now on, heh-heh-heh.

So, the annoying friends are as follows. Marissa and Jason are the couple who've apparently rented out the isolated house in the countryside from a guy called Pete, so they're the pair who are standing around in the garden greeting everyone as they arrive.

Marissa is prissy-faced and judgemental and Jason seems to largely do what she tells him. Typical Irish bloke, anything for a quiet life. There's nothing much to say about Shane and Emma for the moment except that they seem really irritating. But watch this space...

Lucy and Ray's marriage is in trouble. Lucy is small and squeaky, a bit like a mouse, but that's not the problem. The problem is that Ray is a jerk, and he's probably a cheating bastard as well, although we don't find this out for sure.

I've just always been deeply suspicious of guys who make or take 'urgent phone calls to/from the office' at ten o'clock on a Friday night. No-one is in the office at ten o'clock on a Friday night, except maybe a poor guy whose business is going down the tubes, and he's probably not overly concerned with having it away at that point.

(Poor guy. I feel so sorry now for this imaginary guy whose hopes and dreams are going down the toilet because of cripplingly high rents for business premises and the fact that we probably don't need his crappy products because the market is already saturated with crappy products. Aaaaaaw!)

Anyway, Ray, with his 'what d'you mean there's no fucking Internet, I can't survive five minutes without the fucking Internet' and his going down to the bottom of the garden to hold his poxy phone up high to see if he can rustle up even one miserable bar of power, is almost certainly cheating on Lucy. Just because she's gratingly annoying is no excuse, either.

Wait, I completely forgot to tell ye about Ger because he's not part of a couple, lol. He's the spare prick at the orgy, so to speak. He's recently broken up with his girlfriend Barbara, and it's hilarious the way everyone's treating him with kid gloves, smiling awkwardly around him and whispering sadly to him whenever they get him on his own: 'I'm SOOOOO sorry to hear about you and Barbara,' as if she's lately died of the bloody consumption, or something.

That's Ger's cue to put on that brave little smile common to Irish lads who've been
dumped, shrug his shoulders philosophically and say self-deprecatingly: 'Ah sure, it wasn't meant to be.' Then the sympathiser looks at him with sad admiration as if to say: 'Ah sure God love him, isn't he great the way he's coping with it, and Barbara after leaving him and everything?'
That's how Irish people talk, by the way. It's funny and quaint, isn't it?

Ger looks a bit like the singer Morrissey, only mopier and more depressed, lol. Well, he has just broken up with his girlfriend Barbara, you know, the poor creature...

Anyway, I was so absorbed in the dynamics between the couples and the friends that I also nearly forgot to mention the horror element of the film, which clearly and unequivocally emanates from the sinkhole that has recently opened up on the other side of the little forest, or beyond the woods, geddit?

It's hilarious the way Jason and Marissa insist on talking non-stop about the horrible smell issuing from said sinkhole. 'Isn't the stink terrible? Ah go on, take a great big sniff of it there, go on, inhale it properly now, get the full benefit,' or words to that effect, lol.

Yes, we get it, there's a bad smell coming from the sinkhole, which has been nicknamed 'The Gates Of Hell' by the locals. The air is not toxic enough to have been deemed dangerous to breathe by the environmental people, but it's certainly foul enough for some very curious and frightening creatures, definitely not of this world, to have climbed out of the sinkhole and begun a terrifying onslaught against the twats- sorry, I mean, the occupants- of the house by the woods.

The couples- plus Morrissey!- can blame the strange goings-on on the fact that they've been drinking and drugging to beat the band only up to a point. After that point, however, it looks as if supernatural powers beyond their control have taken root in the remote wooded area. 

What will happen to Jason, Marissa, Lucy, Ray, Shane and Emma? Oh, and Ger/Morrissey? See, it's hard to remember someone if they're not part of a couple, lol. Their existence just isn't validated if they're not coupled up. Snigger. Grab yourself a partner now or you too could end up a wraith, a pale shadow forever lurking on the edges of loved-up civilisation. Like Ger, see? 

I love the idea of the sinkhole. To my knowledge, it's not been done before so well done to BEYOND THE WOODS. I don't know if a sinkhole could make someone have wild sex with their friend's husband while the friend is sleeping just down the hall though, especially if you were already a giant slut to begin with, not looking at anyone in particular, Emma...! But it's still a pretty scary phenomenon that would put the willies up you, like spontaneous human combustion. There's no logical explanation for that either.

BEYOND THE WOODS isn't the scariest film you'll ever see but it's excellent and most enjoyable, nonetheless. You'll have great craic with it, although it certainly paints a disturbing picture of the social lives of Irish men and women in their thirties. Alkies and druggies, the whole feckin' lot of 'em. Not a prayer book or a set of rosary beads in sight. They'll burn in Hell, the lot of them. Oh hang on, wait, lol. They already did...

Left Films presents supernatural Irish horror Beyond the Woods, on Digital 5 February and DVD 19 February. 

'A Supernatural mindf**ck of a movie' 

 Rogue Cinema

★★★★ ‘An outstanding indie horror, this is not to be missed!’

The Movie Sleuth



Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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