★★★★ out of ★★★★★
With a wooded setting as bleak as the situations in which Woodland Grey’s two main characters find themselves, the film is a captivating surreal tale of the otherworldly that keeps viewers guessing.
Directed by Adam Reider
A supernatural horror in the core sense of that adjective, the Canadian feature Woodland Grey (2021) is a complex, challenging film. It also uses folk horror elements and the ever-unsettling setting of deep forest to immerse its characters — and viewers — in an enigmatic, goosebumps inducing state of affairs.
Woodland Grey is the type of film that deserves having its viewers going in as cold as possible, so here is a spoiler-free early set-up. William (Ryan Blakely) lives like a hermit in a trailer deep in the forest, living off the land and nearby water source. He’s wary of a small shack near his camper. He finds a young woman named Emily (Jenny Raven) passed out near his dwelling, and takes her in to help her. Emily is initially suspicious of William, but he seems to be sincere in his willingness to help her heal and get back to civilization. The near-silent William and nervously talkative Emily have a personality clash, and when Emily makes a shocking discovery, all hell breaks loose.
It’s a weird hell, though; not the kind many would expect and not easily figured out. Reider, who cowrote the screenplay with Jesse Toufexis, reveals things slowly and in nonlinear fashion, giving clues that point toward answers to previous questions while opening up a variety of new questions. Sometimes this approach can be exasperating in films, but because of the arresting performances of Raven and Blakely, the gloomy ambiance of the area in which they find themselves, Reider’s confidence and execution at the helm, and the fine technical aspects of the film, Woodland Grey worked splendidly for me.
Reider and Toufexis present an intriguing blend of harsh reality and the surreal, and occasionally those two elements meet in the middle. Woodland Grey demands and warrants full viewer attention, and as the film rolls on, layers get more and more complex.
Most readers can guess by now whether Woodland Grey might be their type of horror film or not, though I would highly recommend it to those who are even the slightest bit curious about it. I found it riveting and at times mesmerizing, and anyone who has ever felt shudders in the woods, aficionados of supernatural and folk horror and the surreal, and those seeking unusual independent fear fare should find it well worth their time.
Review by Joseph Perry
Woodland Grey screens as part of Blood in the Snow Film Festival, which runs in Toronto, Canada from November 18–23, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.bloodinthesnow.ca/.