By Admin | March 17, 2009

You wouldn’t always know it from my reviews, but I do truly love independent cinema. I also love ideas, and I respect (and look for work by) people who are able to make the most of what they have. Great cinema can be built upon small budgets and modest resources if the creators are dedicated and talented enough. With every disc I insert into my player, I am hoping for the next “Stranger Than Paradise,” the next “Trust,” the next “Pi,” the next “Delicatessen.”

Still, films regularly show up in my review pile that leave me thinking, “This is the worst movie I have ever seen.” And for every film that leaves me feeling this way, I still give it a star or two, because I figure there must be something worse out there. Something that reeks of laziness, a lack of ideas, complete indifference to technical considerations (sound, lighting, focus), and ineptitude at every single level on the part of the filmmakers.

Something like “Into the Woods.”

Danielle (Nancy Feliciano) is a “nearly forty-years old” (sic) woman with no kids, no husband, no life, and a loser boyfriend named Charlie who happens to be married. It seems as though Charlie is the villain in the piece when he drugs Danielle and leaves her buck naked in an abandoned building deep in the woods. The drugs have induced temporary memory loss, but as they wear off and Danielle looks for a path out of the woods, she finds notes and clues that Charlie has scattered around for her. He is toying with her, defying her to find a way out.

Danielle does three things in the woods: she mutters to herself like some sort of postmodern Popeye, she alludes to the fact that she may actually be at fault and might deserve her fate, and she fails to find her way out, even though these deep dark woods she is supposedly in are actually a well-marked running path in a public park. All that this dumbass has to do is either follow the path to the park gates, or else find a director who can come up with a more convincing filming location.

Through a series of flashbacks, we learn the Charlie has abused Danielle in some rather unforgivable ways. Danielle, it seems, isn’t entirely innocent either. Further confusingly edited flashbacks nested within even more ill-advised flashbacks turn the story of Danielle and Charlie into a hopeless mess that isn’t worth figuring out.

The movie ends with three minutes of exposition by two characters we have not seen in the film at all up until this point. They theoretically recap the story, but the narrative they tell has hardly anything to do with the film we have just seen.

As Danielle, Feliciano spends way too much time nekkid. The constant sight of her body is the scariest thing in this tepid and confusing waste of time. There are about fifteen shots of her pointing her a*s at the camera as she dresses or undresses, and every single one of them is unnecessary. What’s worse (almost) is that the sound mix is impossibly bad, the camerawork is beyond poor, the acting really, seriously couldn’t be any worse (particularly director Phil Herman as Charlie), the editing is sloppy at best, the script contains phrases like “little did I know…,” no attention at all seems to have been paid to lighting, and the music sounds like one guy noodling on a Casio synthesizer.

Every bit of this would be excusable if one single good, intelligent, original, or surprising idea had occurred somewhere in the creative process, but “Into the Woods” doesn’t even have that much going for it. And worst of all is that it takes itself completely seriously; if it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek it would at least have that going for it.

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