At this point I feel I should add "For Found Footage Format Fans Only" in big, bold letters at the start of certain film reviews. (Like the current one, the blandly titled A Night in the Woods.) Put quite simply, there have to be over a hundred of these "micro-budget, handheld, most improvised, shot in a nearby forest" movies that have hit the shelves in the last five years -- and one certainly couldn't blame a horror fan for simply lumping most of them together and dismissing the entire "first-person shaky cam" format completely.
But for those of us who think there's actually some novelty, promise, and innate creepiness to be found in these movies (to say nothing of the writers who cover horror films and try to separate the crap from the quality for other folks), well, here's another one. A Night in the Woods. Three young (and rather unlikeable) people head into the forest for a camping excursion, one of them refuses to put his camera down, and the viewer is on for a long bout of character development followed by a few short, sharp shocks of legitimate horror.
That's not to say A Night in the Woods doesn't have a small streak of flavor. The three campers, while not very appealing, are at least interesting in a dark soap opera way. Brody (Scott McNairy) and Kerry (Anna Skellern) are a couple, you see, and third wheel Leo (Andrew Hawley) is her cousin -- or maybe he's not. Maybe he's an old flame. And maybe Brody is actually a few tools short of a garage in the first place, and maybe Kerry is not all that sweet of a gal either when all is said and done.
So perhaps A Night in the Woods delves a little into schadenfreude territory (in that we don't really like these people so we're curious to see how bad their "night in the woods" will actually get) but the anti-romantic triangle between Kerry, Brody, and Leo does keep things relatively interesting until the sun goes down and A Night in the Woods heads, almost dutifully, into Blair Witch Project material. To be fair, director Richard Parry does nail a handful of well-timed jolts, and (more importantly) seems to appreciate how simply creepy the forest can be late at night.
Recommended exclusively to those who openly like "found footage" frights flicks, A Night in the Woods is interesting enough to warrant a look for 84 minutes, but don't expect anything that will re-invent this particular wheel or stick in your memory banks for more than a few hours.