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STUDIO Lost Empire
RUNNING TIME 79 Minutes
• Writer and Producer Commentary
• Making a Creature – Photo Journal
• Behind the Scenes
It’s Pumpkinhead meets The Evil Dead for better or worse.
Walter Phelan, Elizabeth O’Brick, Lira Kellerman, Johnny Moreno, Alisa Koenig
Something evil is waiting, lurking… hungry, thirsty, and anxious for revenge. The Wicker demon has awakened and the woods of Knobs Creek shall never be the same. For one unlucky group of kids, a road trip to the lake turns very wrong, very fast. They soon find themselves separated, alone and terrified as they battle a ruthless flesh-eating creature. Outrun. Outlast. Outlive. Who among them will survive trapped deep within The Eyes of the Woods?
You know those pull quotes on the back of DVD boxes that claim this movie you’ve never heard of is a combination of two more popular movies? For example, the quote on the back of Murder Party says it’s a combination of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Napoleon Dynamite (that is just offensively incorrect), Slither is Night of the Living Dead meets Tremors (Eh… kinda.), or Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is the devil-spawn of Bloodsucking Freaks and Slaughtered Vomit Dolls (spot on).
The DVD case for Eyes of the Woods doesn’t even have a pull quote, it just proudly claims in its own synopsis that it’s “in the tradition of The Evil Dead and Jeepers Creepers.” No one was more surprised than I was to find out that that boast was fairly correct. Unfortunately just as someone can look “just like George Clooney” but also have gum disease and a third nipple, Eyes of the Woods can be “in the tradition of Evil Dead and Jeepers Creepers and still look like an episode of Days of Our Lives shot on an ancient VHS tape.
Let’s rip this band-aid right off: the story is so thin you can see through it. A puritan man loses his child to illness and in anger at God for not sorting that shit out, commits a satanic ritual to turn himself into an invincible demon because fuck you, that’s why. After a mortifyingly awful cold open (that lasts 15 minutes) we meet the stupid kids who we’re going to watch die for the next hour. They’re pretty run of the mill but two of them Kelly (Lira Kellerman) and Winter (Johnny Moreno) are charasmatic and interesting and made me start to care about what was happening.
After a run-in with the token creepy gas station attendant (who doesn’t even offer the traditional ominous warning, he’s just really weird and tries to pull his dick out) they decide to take – say it with me now – a shortcut! Naturally their van breaks down in the middle of demon country and blah blah kids go to the wood kids get dead.
As simple as the story is, it manages to still be confusing. Other characters pop up out of nowhere mid-movie for no discernible reason and there’s a naked woman covered in blood and something about undoing a curse involving the demon’s dead daughter. Moreno and Kellerman get locked into boring side quests while the less talented actors take up the core of the film wandering around and finding excuses to get in their underwear.
This movie is an hour and twenty minutes but could still stand to have about 30 of those trimmed off. The cinematography makes the movie look like a daytime soap opera and yet. . . I don’t hate this movie, I actually kind of enjoyed it. If there’s anything that makes this movie like The Evil Dead (aside from some stylistic plagiarism during action scenes) it’s that it’s appealing in spite of just how staggeringly flawed it is. It’s valleys are much deeper and it’s peaks not nearly as high but it has redeeming qualities.
As I said, Moreno and Kellerman are great and though Kellerman gets stuck in a boring “listen to the little dead girl spout exposition” side-bar, Moreno gets a mostly humorous if ultimately pointless diversion. He’s very charismatic and the movie sets him up to be a sort of Ash-like character (and he really could pull it off) unfortunately that never quite happens. Maybe they plan to make a Winter-focused sequel?
The main reason to watch this movie is the special effects. The monster looks really good. It’s as good as the rest of the movie is bad, and the make-up work is amazing. It’s seen prominently in every one of its scenes, but it manages to still be genuinely frightening to look at each time. The gore effects are also very well-done and the massacre in the prologue kept me from switching off when the movie went back to being lame again. Eyes of the Woods is at its best when it lets its setting and its effects drive the narrative.
So it looks bad, the acting is mostly mediocre, and the screenplay could use a few more drafts but this has the feeling of a potential cult movie. It’s not aggressively terrible and definitely much better than a lot of other movies of this caliber. Just know that “in the tradition of The Evil Dead and Jeepers Creepers” is as much a warning as it is a selling point.
The box promises special features but there are none. I don’t know if mine is a screener or if they’re all filled with lies.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars