Deep in the Woods is a sort of French spin on the glossy post-Scream teen slasher. All the ingredients are present, from the cast of beautiful young men and women, the hip soundtrack, right on down to the film's packaging, which looks straight out of Dimension's art department. However, all similiarities end there. Judging this "book" by it's cover would be a big mistake, because Deep in the Woods is more Argento than Craven, and is one of the finest examples of modern European horror to make it's way on to DVD.
The film opens with a long traveling shot of a woman reading "Little Red Riding Hood" to a child, and it's a dazzling introduction, with the camera peering through a keyhole and gliding into the room, leading up a truly unsettling murder. We are then introduced to our lead players, a quintet of actors hired to perform Red Riding Hood for an eccentric millionaire, Axel de Fersen(Berleand), and his autistic grandson, Nicolas ( a spooky kid named Thibault Truffert) . As the title suggests, Axel's home is an isolated castle deep within the woods, and from the moment the group arrives, there is an immediate sense of dread, with Axel displaying a rather nasty temperment,( as well as a bit of "affection" for Wilfried (Lecoeur)), a bizarre "game-keeper" named Stephane (Denis Levant) who hovers over Axel protectively, and, of course, the autistic Nicolas, who manages to be creepy just by sitting there. Meanwhile, the police are in hot pursuit of a serial rapist who has apparently taken up residence in the 10 kilometers of woods surrounding Axel's estate. Before long, we are thrown headlong into a Giallo-like murder-mystery that works quite well until the final act, where the film seems to run out of gas. Still, it's quite a ride while it lasts!
Delplanque's direction is the real star here. The bio on the DVD says he was only 27 years old when he completed Deep in the Woods, and I have to say, I was really impressed, if not downright shocked, by his ability to turn this relatively formulaic tale into a splendidly entertaining visual feast! If this is any indication of what this guy's next project will look like, reserve my ticket now! From quick cuts, long shots, ingenious angles and some spectacular point-of-view stuff, the camera becomes as organic as the characters (and in some cases, more so). In the hands of a lesser filmmaker this film could have easily been a kill-by-numbers I Know What You Did Last Summer rehash, but Delplanque's unique visuals keep you glued to the screen until the rather unsatisfying conclusion.
As a whole, I highly recommend Deep in the Woods. It's leagues better than any of it's American counterparts (although so is sleeping or watching paint dry), and is sure to please fans of Argento, Bava, et all. The only complaints I have are the same complaints I always have with Giallo's and that is the cardboard characterizations and lack of logic in the script, although Deep in the Woods is actually pretty consistent in the latter.
As far as extras, there are a bunch, but they aren't all that. There is the whole cast/crew bios section, but, aside from the director, who cares? No one stood out as the next Jean Reno, so I really didn't care what Maud Buquet had on her resume'. There are also two trailers which are virtually identical, save the French trailer shows full frontal nudity and most of the goriest bits, so, while it's great to watch, wait till you've seen the film. There is also a commentary by Brian Yuzna of all people, who is called a"Horror Expert" (apparently they missed Return of the Living Dead 3) on the liner notes. He reads from notes scribbled by Delplanque, and then throws in his two cents. His commentary is actually pretty cool, because he seems genuinely impressed with the director's work, but it would have been nice to hear from Delplanque himself, even if they had to subtitle his commentary. Rounding out the package are the nice English and French 5.1 audio tracks. Both the video and audio presentation are flawless, but since this is a 2000 release I'd expect no less.
All in all, a decent package of an above average flick by Artisan (who recently RAPED us with their awful fullscreen and featureless Ginger Snaps set!), and a real treat for anyone who has yet to recover from the Dawson's Creek era of horror.