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Murder in the Woods is a pleasant surprise. Outside of Danny Trejo, there’s not a lot of star power, but this film from director Luis Iga Garza and screenwriter Yelyna De Leon serves as both a good tribute to old school horror movies and a movie that is self-aware given the amount of horror movie cliches in the movie.
The movie is not meant to be taken seriously and everyone involved seem to be aware of what they are trying to accomplish with it. The main character named Jesse is played by Jose Julian. He lives with his crazy nana and if you look at the wall in their house during the early stages of the movie, you see a newspaper hanging on the wall commemorating how his parents died.
Jesse and his largely unintelligent friends decide to head to a creepy isolated cabin on the anniversary of the murder-suicide of his parents. That will end well, right?
The cast portrays stereotypical horror movie roles. There’s the pot loving Jule played by Kade Wise. The sexualized Celeste (Catherine Toribio), the best friend Gabe (Jordan Diambrini), and the nice girl Fernanda (Jeanette Samano) round out the cast. You can pretty much guess the order they will die given their respective roles in the fim.
The film starts out with the teens in trouble right away when they hit a deer on a dark road on the way to the cabin. Danny Trejo, who plays Sheriff Lorenzo, shows up to help the teens. Trejo is great in his intimidating role. One of the limitations of the script is that all of the events take place during the course of a single night.
Once the group of friends reach the cabin, the horrors begin and things escalate quickly. Viewers are treated to flashbacks and images of a little boy staring out of the window of the very same cabin. The group makes one bad decision after the next and things spiral out of control and lead to a thrilling finish.
Although the movie features a mostly Latino and multicultural cast, the actors and actresses do the same stupid things we’ve seen in dozens and dozens of other movies, except it’s not meant to be taken seriously. There’s over-the-top gore and gruesome killings throughout the movie.
Overall score: (6.0): The highlight of the film is Trejo, who is great in his role and just fits in perfectly with the formula the movie is going for. Murder in the Woods is a tribute to horror movies of old, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s a fun ride.
The movie does drag in spots and they do try to fit a lot of gory killings into the span of a night, which makes the bad decision making to kill ratio shrink extremely quick. Overall, if you’re a fan of old school horror movies and looking to watch a movie that seems both aware of how ridiculous horror movie scripts are while also trying to deliver what horror fans want, this is worth a watch.
Note: This movie is now available in theaters and drive-ins nationwide. It comes to digital and VOD on Sept. 18.
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Be sure to listen to Radican Worldwide this weekend at PWTorch VIP. Rich Fann and I will be doing an audio review of Murder in the Woods.