Lost Woods 2012
LOST WOODS: LOST FUN
Low budget films have always been a staple of the genre film market. Roger Corman has made a career out of producing low budget genre films. Some of my favorite films have been birthed from the low budget film market, Mad Max (1979), Humanoids from the Deep (1980), My Bloody Valentine (1981) and the iconic Evil Dead (1981). Low budget cinema is one strata of film making but below that strata there have always been film makers that work on a level below low budget, micro budget film making. This strata of film making is where the true genre zealots reside. Film makers that have such a love and passion for genre films that strike out on their own, regardless of skill or financial means and make their own film by hook or by crook. They make their films on shoe string budgets with camcorders, VHS in the pre-digital age, in some cases. Production values and acting are terrible but the stories and enthusiasm carry the films beyond the limits of their budgets. Don Dohler’s The Alien Factor (1978), Fiend (1980), Nightbeast (1982) and Galaxy Invader (1985) are great examples. Fred Olen Ray was the “more poor than the poor man’s” Roger Corman producing such films as Alien Dead (1980), Scalps (1983) Biohazard (1985) and many more. Eric Stanze in the 1990′s continued the micro budget legacy by producing some great movies on a micro budget such as Savage Harvest (1994), Ice From the Sun (1999), Scarpbook (2000), The Undertow (2003), and the creepy Deadwood Park (2007). Scott Phillips’ very interesting The Stink of Flesh (2005) is yet another great example. There are a 100 more films for every one I have mentioned here. The point is that there are many films to be enjoyed if you are willing to overlook the limitations of micro budget films. Nathan and Phillip Ellering’s Lost Woods is yet another micro budget film. Does it joins the ranks of the the successful and effective micro budget films mentioned here?
Lost Woods opens as Rey (Phillip Ellering), Lucy (Nina Brissey) and George (Nathan Ellering) show up at the home of Darrin (Joey Brown) to invite home to a few days of camping and hunting. He is reluctant at first but then agrees. The four stop at the house of Warren (Garrett Vander Leun), who was invited by George. Including Warren is a problem because their is some tension between Darrin and Warren. Darrin puts aside his issues with Warren and the five childhood friends head up to the woods for a camping and hunting getaway.
The five friends arrive at their camping site and setup camp. They spend their time reconnecting and squashing old beefs. They drink, swim and just plain enjoy themselves until something begins stalking them from the distance and cover of the woods. What is in the woods stalking the group and what does it want?
Lost Woods is a micro budget film so terrible acting is to be expected. Terrible acting and terrible dialogue is exactly what we get. Juvenile dialogue that tries to depict a situation where Darrin learns to stop running and stand up and face his fears is clumsily executed. Furthermore the clumsy narrative is made more clumsy with clumsy attempts at humor that eat up the run time of the first half of the film. The George character is wearing a Joe Dirt wig for all his onscreen time… very distracting and not funny.
The creature, which should be the draw of the film, is kind of cheap. The decision to make the creature’s eyes glow was a bad one because it is badly executed and just comes off cheap. In the end terrible creature design and cheap special effects weaken an already weak narrative.
Lost Woods looks like it was filmed with an off the shelf camcorder in the beginning and then gets dark and muddy. On top of that, Lost Woods suffers from shaky camera syndrome which becomes annoying. The second half of the film serves up a grey color palette. Maybe its an attempt to hide the deficiencies of the creature design, regardless it becomes another weakness to point to.
The first half of film is spent trying to be funny and just comes off boring. The attempts at humor don’t work and just come off as filler. The second half of the film makes up the fight for survival against the creature that the film promises. Once we get into the creature action, the film picks up… a little. The clumsy comedy behinds us, surviving the creature is mediocre at best but it is at least it is more entertaining than the first half. In defense of the film, I have seen worse. The problem is that the film suffers from being so so and barely so. I can see that with some more projects under their belt, the Ellering brothers have the potential to deliver entertaining micro budget productions.
The bottom line is that Lost Woods is just so so and not that fun. In my opinion the micro budget king is Eric Stanze. He produces fun, entertaining and sometimes creepy films on a shoe string budget. It is possible to make entertaining micro budget films. If you want something similar that works better, is more fun and over the top then I would suggest Dear God No! (2011). You get all the Big Foot action in a much more entertaining package. As it stands, Lost Woods is just so so and barely so.