An Irish horror film that takes the DNA of Coherence and infuses it with a demonic twist, Beyond the Woods is an outstanding indie horror debut by director Sean Breathnach. Featuring a vicious ensemble, rustic cinematography, and exceptional editing, this is a film that ignores common conventions by creating a self-contained mythology that twists the nonchalant trespasses of friendship as a portal to sinister ideals.
Breathnach's script takes the tried and true formula of an isolated group of victims and spends the entire first act setting the field. Relationships are defined and obliterated in an instant, with each fraternal annihilation hinging on blistering dialogue delivered by the cast. It's difficult to single out any of the performances, as the gestalt organism of the "friends" is essential to the plot. This is a story about a yearly ritual of renewal, in which friends gather to engage in Bacchanal reverie to strengthen the bonds of friendship that life and its many inconveniences continually weaken. The magic is in how these bonds quickly disintegrate once the darkness invades the four walled sanctuary of the patchwork tribe.
Paraic English's robust cinematography uses the odd angle horror pastiche to devious ends to frame the insidious and the mundane in a suffocating package. The bulk of the film involves the gathering, the social rituals of a group of friends coming together to heal wounds and settle scores, and this is communicated through documentary like coverage of discourse and uncomfortable close ups. Breathnach's editing conquers the limelight, blissfully leaving the carnage to the viewer's mind while deconstructing the central dilemma into a surreal pinwheel of emotional turbulence.
The film's summation is perhaps the best part. Inverting the "and then there were none" trope, Beyond the Woods subverts the supernatural slasher concept by putting the power of life and death into the hands of the would-be victims, reversing commonplace horror film mores by exploring the psychological turmoil of the lambs before slaughter through the metaphor of neglected friendship. Excising a connection from life, be it real or electronic is a concept that pervades our shared reality and Breathnach's exploration of this theme yields chilling results.
|Head right for the fiery demonic sinkhole|
Coming soon to disc, Beyond the Woods is an above the board indie thriller. A grassroots effort that substitutes charm for discomfort, this is not to be missed. Sean Breathnach's initial offering shows that he has a lot to offer to the world of cinema and I for one can't wait to see what he has waiting for us up his malignant sleeve.
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