The found footage genre finds itself in Christopher Nolan Land with writer/director/star Lance Todd’s mind-bending Beyond the North Woods. Straight outta Duluth, Minnesota, Peter (Todd) arrives in town to host a Youtube video exploring the North Woods, where people have disappeared. Peter and his videographer, Angela (Henriette Soderlind), check into a funky local hotel the day before the shoot. That night, while Angela is reviewing footage on her phone, she starts getting calls from her number. After hanging up repeatedly, she finally answers. The strange voice on the line talks like he can see her, but no one is around. The voice cackles and explains he has already seen what happens over and over.
The next day Peter and Angela meet up with Jordan (Kristen Hylenski), a local guide, to film them exploring the North Woods. While Peter looks for scary things to shoot, he starts getting more erratic and drunk. When darkness falls, Peter suddenly wanders deep into the forest, leaving Angela and Jordan in the freezing cold. They are both soon lost in the snow-covered jungle of twisted roots and dead branches. Jordan suddenly discovers a woman’s body but has no service to call the cops. Then they hear what sounds like music, which leads them to a deranged man (Matt Rasmussen) cackling over a phone. He shows them something very strange on his phone and pulls out a knife. That’s when things start getting pretty weird.
“…Peter suddenly wanders deep into the forest, leaving Angela and Jordan in the freezing cold.”
Beyond the North Woods is billed as a feature, but its running time is just a hair under an hour. This is something that has been cropping up in the new century, with more movies coming out as features but with under one-hour running times. Back in the day, a motion picture had to clock in over 71 minutes in order to be called a feature. Anything less was a short. Only documentaries were able to claim feature status with an hour runtime due to their main market being PBS broadcasts. However, with streaming becoming the method of ingestion, a shorter feature may not only be acceptable but it may also be preferred. (Editor’s note: there is no strict definition of a feature’s runtime, as even SAG and the Academy vary on this idea; a minimum of 80 minutes versus 40. We here at Film Threat consider a feature anything 45 minutes or longer.)
Anyone who sat through an 8mm condensed movie at summer camp can attest that the 50-minute version of The Towering Inferno works better than the nearly three hours-long original when you are small and being eaten by mosquitos. So while I myself would have preferred at least 10 more minutes, I also recognize that adding to the length would impact the brisk pace and tight composition. So with its trim running time, Beyond the North Woods not only enters the “what qualifies as feature-length” debate, it may have just won it.
"…adding to the length would impact the brisk pace and tight composition."