Cult Cinema: Hidden in the Woods

Andrew reviews the extreme Chilean shocker, Hidden in the Woods.

Chilean writer-director Patricio Valladares might be the new Srdjan Spasojevic or Pascal Laugier in the pantheon of extreme horror cinema.  With his 2013 shockfest Hidden in the Woods, he has managed to create an exploitation horror film so perverse in it's ultraviolence, so twisted in its sexuality and so unrelenting in it's aim to sully the spirits of all who watched it that a deep soak in rubbing alcohol might not be enough to get rid of the stench it leaves you with.  From the opening images to the closing shot, it never lets up, never stops surprising the viewer with how low it manages to go and never ceases to completely appall all who bear witness to it.  Not since A Serbian Film has a film managed to leave yours truly feeling this unclean after seeing it and while that film remains the king of extreme cinema, that film took it's time to let the cat out of the bag where Hidden in the Woods wastes no time in alerting viewers as to what kind of dirty septic tank they've gotten themselves into.  Reportedly it's own writer-director just completed an American remake with Michael Biehn and William Forsythe set to be released later this year, and while it looks no less brutal it doesn't seem to have the same scuzzy air the original Chilean film has which can be smelled from miles away.

The story of two sisters and their deformed brother/son (you heard me correctly) living in the isolated Chilean countryside with their sexually abusive drug pushing father, Hidden in the Woods immediately calls to mind films like The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  But make no mistake, despite the shaky camerawork, synthetic score reminiscent of 70s Grindhouse features, kindred themes of inbred freakishness of Tobe Hooper and rape-revenge in the woods antics of I Spit on Your Grave, this is no celebratory nostalgic homage.  This is about as mean and nasty as the Grindhouse sleazefest can get with no humorous outlet, no tongue-in-cheek self-aware irony and debatable as to whether or not it serves a purpose beyond shock and awe.  After an arrest of the sisters' daddy goes awry and threatens the stability of his kingpin boss, the stage is set for a bloodbath which encompasses everything from torture, gang rape and cannibalism.  Paced at a frenetic speed, the characters aren't really allowed to develop beyond every male in the film being a misogynistic rapist and every woman being a loose prostitute.  If there's any film which makes its disdain for humanity readily apparent, it's this one.  

On the one hand, it's refreshing to see a Grindhouse effort that isn't here to play nice but to go the full distance with only the sky as the limit.  On the other hand, besides it being loosely based on a true story (they all say that in search of justification), it's writer-director freely admits it's one and only aim is to shock people and while it succeeds admirably in that department it's absence of a moral compass and anyone to empathize with at all makes for a strangely disengaging geek sideshow.  While much of it will make you recoil and cringe, it's a bit hard to care about anyone in this picture other than what terrible things they'll do to each other next.  That said, it's a relatively effective thriller where anything can and will happen and it possesses an uncanny ability not felt since the films of Abel Ferrara and Larry Clark to make you feel really dirty for watching it.  In virtually every scene, the movie practically begs you to abandon it.  No easy feat but at the same time, not for much reason either.  If you are a fan of extreme cinema like myself, you will not be disappointed.  But if you see this on the shelf and are a casual moviegoer looking for an action thriller or even a horror film, my friendly suggestion is to keep moving on.  Not for the faint hearted in the least.  You've been warned.


-Andrew Kotwicki