Lucky McKee hit a quirky little triple with his debut pic MAY, a small independent horror movie about a lonely girl that decides if you can't find someone to love, make someone to love. His next film, THE WOODS, languished in studio Hell for an eternity, eventually worming its way onto DVD a month ago. While not as fresh as his previous film, McKee inject a lot of atmosphere and disturbing images into a story that doesn't quite make sense to make THE WOODS a worthwhile diversion.
From what I can recollect of the plot, Heather (played by Agnes Bruckner) is a bad girl sent to an isolated boarding school for something involving both a fire (that's never really explained) and pissing off her uptight mother. Once there she is ostracized by her peers, discovers she has mysterious telekinetic powers, and that there's something not quite right with the staff.
The boarding school is headed up by a prim and proper Patricia Clarkson, who apparently is a witch or human manifestation of the evil spirits of woods. 100 years prior she, along with her sisters, were persecuted by the very same school and responded by chop chop chopping off the head of the former school mistress. They're looking for young girls with special "gifts" that will enable them to initiate something mean and nasty. Again, I was never quite sure what the goal was - it might have been something about resurrecting the dead girls from 100 years ago or waking the spirits in the woods...who knows?
The effects are good - nothing spectacular but they do what they're needed to do. The acting all around is good, especially Clarkson, who doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to do but makes the most of it. The school staff in general is full of so many tics and tremors that it lends to a sense of restlessness and anticipation whenever they're on screen.
If you get past the convoluted plot, there are plenty of great images, sound effects, and sense of dread to appreciate. And if you can't take any of that, either, you get Bruce "I'm frickin' Ash" Campbell playing a supporting role as Heather's loving father. What's not to like?