Hidden in the Woods was actually one of the films I was most looking forward to at this years Frightfest being as it was, I thought, of the very few Chilean horror movies to date and attempting to capture an older exploitation feel. Indeed the only negative indication was the rather generic and unexciting title and lack of catchy tagline for a supposed contemporary exploitation film. I wasn’t even put off by the director’s rather blunt comments about its explicit content before the film started, putting it down to enthusiasm and excitement for his film being premiered. Initially into it’s screening Hidden in The Woods did, very much seem to achieve a brutal exploitation aesthetic. Unfortunately for the audience what it doesn’t deliver throughout its whole running time, rather is a unique or even entertaining experience. It certainly contains enough sexual content and blood-letting but elements such as its extremely one-dimensional male characters who all appear to be thoroughly nasty ultimately detract. The poor editing and choppy cuts results, in this viewer at least a confusing narrative though this maybe intentional to keep with the exploitation aesthetic. The writing was similarly nonsensical with some of the character’s actions appearing quite baffling and unrealistic though, again given the context this is perhaps forgivable.
The acting, with perhaps the sole exception of the two female characters, who are the most developed character’s (though this doesn’t prevent the director from constantly sexualising them to a negatively excessive extent) is also very unexceptional and at points simply poor. The only positive element of the film I can identify would be the comparatively well executed sound design, though I stress the word comparatively. Most crucially, though all these elements are forgivable in any past and classic low-budget exploitation film I was, unfortunately at the closing credits of Hidden In The Woods ultimately reminded of today’s Tom Six’s attitude to filmmaking; that is to simply throw as much vile but generic, almost expected imagery onto the screen as possible for shock value, one that seem’s to represent a recent negative and saturated movement in horror with the likes of the Human Centipede, the increasingly gorier Saw sequels and Eli Roth’s Hostel.
Indeed the same continual torturous imagery in this film makes the derogatory label Torture Porn seem very fitting for Hidden in The Woods; for a better film that is perhaps similarly simply labeled as such in some quarters, but very unfairly so see Martyrs. As described Hidden in The Wood’s perhaps has the expected elements of an exploitation film but their excessive repetition throughout the film render them ineffective rather than striking or memorable, in contrast to what the best examples of 60/70’s exploitation uniquely conveyed. These, though shocking, sleazy and made to make a big profit were ultimately made for its audiences and at their best, with a loving craft that was raw but with mastered direction. In Hidden in the Woods it was in basic terms a case of trying too hard and therefore it is a ‘so bad its just bad film’ rather than ‘its so bad it’s good’. It’s unrelentingly and far too excessive nature prevents it from achieving the latter.
This ineffective attempt is in my opinion even more unforgivable if you accept that the film was actually loosely based on a true story. If this is correct then the film is in my opinion an insult to the supposed true story’s victims. Surely they should deserve a more considered and well made film such as Monster or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Alternatively one can cite the example of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as having a sensationalist title despite being loosely based on the true crimes of Ed Gein but this only disguises a film that upon analyses actually has complex themes and is well-directed and made enough to be a classic of the genre. Not only is Hidden in The Wood’s a bad exploitation film with a thoroughly unexceptional title; the one element that they seemed to ignore in trying to make a good exploitation film, but one that exploits a supposed true story in an unnecessarily and excessively vile manner.
What’s more films like Hidden in the Wood’s and Human Centipede due to their nature are the most prominent but critically incorrect representation of what is in truth a very complex genre and, in my view originate from their directors own ego-statical personality rather than true consideration of the genre’s audience. Reading this article may give you the impression that I don’t like any exploitation or explicit horror film’s yet some of my favourites of the overall genre include Frankenhooker, the original and graphic Maniac, the gory Dead Snow and more recently Hobo With A Shotgun which have plenty of sexual or violent content. In short Hidden In the Woods in trying to be so graphic ends up being generic and forgettable, in contrast to classic and acclaimed sensationalist titles like Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycatt! Kill! Kill!.
Today film’s like Hobo with a Shotgun; with its striking title show how to make an outrageous and violent but ultimately entertaining and standout contemporary grindhouse/exploitation film. I doubt very much that Hidden In The Wood’s will achieve the same status as I believe Hobo With A Shotgun deserves or Faster, Pussycat Kill Kill already has.
This was a guest review submitted by a reader of our site!