Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Woods of Evil | Sweet Insanity

By Steve Anderson
September 1st, 2006

Woods of Evil
**
DVD
Directed by Conrad Glover
Written by Conrad Glover
Starring Conrad Glover, Jaime Velez, Christopher Farmer, Nicholl Jones
Produced by Christine Y. Dynan, Conrad Glover
NR
85 mins
2006

The woods are alive with the sounds of a surprisingly mundane evil here in the "Woods of Evil".

So what we've got here, and it's probably not going to come as much of a surprise given the title, are a whole lot of people going missing in the middle of a forest somewhere in Jersey. And for a while, people stop vanishing, until right about now.

Which is basically about the time when someone's dumb enough to go into Jersey. Let's face it-Jersey isn't what you'd call a survivable horror movie destination. "The Last Broadcast" and the various other Jersey Devil inspired movies have proven that point in abundance.

Oh, and it gets worse. A down-on-his-luck-on-probation convict named Ray and his buddies Dice and Paco are about to kidnap the two rich young daughters of major real estate movers and hide them in--surprise!--the woods where everybody and his mother has been disappearing lately.

Needless to say, something's going on in those woods that has absolutely nothing to do with Ray and company's kidnap plot.

It sounds mediocre. It looks mediocre. And you're probably not going to be any too surprised when I tell you that's exactly what it is-mediocre. It's strictly run of the mill. Sure, it does a fair job at building suspense-it takes the movie a good long while to actually show what's behind all the evil in the woods-but it also has some pretty shoddy acting and some decent sized plot holes.

For instance, twelve minutes and one second in, we get the most pointless death in the movie as a character trips and falls, totally standard operation, and then spends the rest of her life (about fifteen seconds) scooting away on her rear while something advances on her and kills her with a rock. A rock. We don't get much more low-tech than this, and even better, she's left a car maybe fifty feet away from her. All she'd have to do to get away clean is get up and run. But no-all we get is scoot and scream.

Check out the "gifted" acting as a man gets a knife stuck in his left side, begins moaning, and clutches his right side. There's a knife handle sticking out of his left side, but he's moaning and gripping his right side like the knife's on the totally opposite side of his body.

And for a finale.try out the sequence at the fifty seven minute four second mark as someone forgot to secure the camera. It's bouncing. The shot is bouncing.

The ending is.wow. Just wow. It's a fantastically anticlimactic ending as we discover the true source of the evil in the "Woods of Evil"..

.it's a fat man.

A fat man with an axe.

Words cannot describe how astonished and yet disappointed I am by this development. The evil in the Jersey woods that claimed so many lives and terrorized the most terrifying state in the Union is a fat guy with an axe!

Wow. Again.

The special features are just trailers for "Lost Things", "The Evil One", "The Wickeds", "Tears of Kali", "The Dawn", and "Zombie Night".

All in all, "Woods of Evil" is a mundane suspense thriller with its share of triumphs and troubles. Worth a rental, especially if everything you want to see is out already and you just need a fast horror fix.

Sweet Insanity
*
DVD
Directed by Daniel Hess
Written by Adam Weis, Daniel Hess
Starring Mackenzie Firgens, Rebekah Isaacs, Corbett Tuck, David Fine
Produced by George Dykstra
80 mins
R
2006

If you remember the title as being part of a theme song from an eighties sitcom, you're sadly not alone. That's the way I remember them, and frankly, after seeing the waste of DVD plastic that "Sweet Insanity" represents, I think the title would've been better used as part of schmaltzy eighties sitcoms.

"Sweet Insanity" is the dull and plodding mess of a story that involves a bunch of high school kids getting murdered semirandomly for what only seems like no reason, until the last fifteen minutes or so, when there will prove to be a reason, but it will be so poorly explained that it's next to impossible to follow.

Especially through the massive, angry haze of boredom that the entire first half hour will generate.

The first five minutes are a little misleading, but then, that turns out to be a fair representation of this movie in general. We start off with a dream sequence that's mostly scary, but in the end, turns out to be just laughable. Continuing on, we get a minor psychology lesson, and then some cartoon character of a high school student screaming about what his first time on ecstacy was like.

Surprisingly, this turns out to be the biggest problem with "Sweet Insanity"-- the first twenty minutes are just some mammoth high school drama movie, and only after the first twenty-five percent of the movie is down do we even have a killer appear to distinguish the movie from, say, a particularly low budget version of "Clueless". And yes, I saw "Clueless"-what? Alicia Silverstone is hot, dammit!

But I digress. In general, it's just a bad idea to set your horror / thriller movie up in such a fashion that there are neither thrills nor horror to be found until you've finished a quarter of your run time.

Worse yet, what tension there is after the twenty minute mark comes in small bursts, never really allowing the viewer to work up sufficient tension to be, you know, scared. Which is sort of a prerequisite for any half-decent horror / thriller movie-the audience should probably be scared at some point.

I spent the first half of "Sweet Insanity" thinking about lunch. And that's never a good sign.

And then, almost by way of apology, "Sweet Insanity" trots out a brief but very subdued lesbian make-out scene at forty three minutes fifty three seconds. Sorry folks, nice try, but distinctly not enough.

There's an excellent example of how the tension in this movie is allowed to build and then die off in the sequence between forty eight and forty nine minutes. Watch and see what I mean-something scary happens, and then we boil off into some pointless bit of high school drama.

Finally, we get to the ending of this sludge pit of a movie, dragging ourselves through it like walking in waist-deep butterscotch, and we get to a major plot point of the movie with just over twenty minutes left. A real shocker, too, that manages to explain a couple little things that were going on over the course of the movie. Why did it take us so damnably long just to get to this particular plot point that explains some little details?

The rest of the ending is much the same way-the action finally gets started, some kids start dropping over, and the killer runs amok. Until the very end.when we're in an insane asylum.and one of the kids.is.in a.straitjacket? Wait, what the hell was that? Comprehension for the last two minutes just falls through the floor. In fact, you're probably going to be hard pressed to tell just what happened in the last three minutes. If it even happened at all.

The special features include director's commentary, audio options, deleted scenes, Spanish subtitles, and some screeners.

All in all, "Sweet Insanity" is much like high school itself-far too slow, ridiculously underpowered, dull as dishwater and by the end, someone's going to wind up in a looney bin.

Sadly, my money's on the audience.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line. 

Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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