★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A father and daughter going through difficult times are about to have matters get even worse, as they find themselves stranded on a road next to a forest at night, and they are definitely not alone.
Directed by Manuel Weiss
German thriller In the Woods (Im Wald, 2022) holds its mysteries close to its cinematic vest so tightly and so well in the first act that it would be a crime to reveal anything more than the basic set up in my review. Going in as cold as possible to this fingernail-chewer is the best way to see it.
Father Mats (Tobias Kay) and his teen daughter Mia (Jolie Joan, as Jolie Sarah Werner) are on a nighttime drive next to a forest to visit Mats’ new girlfriend Carla (Heike Schuch) when they come across another car that looks like it has been in an accident. Mats stops to check things out, but he decides to then drive on to try and get cell reception. One strange thing leads to another, and the pair find themselves stranded with no gas and no batteries for the car or their phones. Things get even weirder for the father and daughter and more nerve-wracking for viewers as strange sounds further crank up the tension.
Weiss heightens audience investment in Mats and Mia as the family members have each been going through difficult times, apart and together. Kay and Werner give terrific performances, with their chemistry helping to make the familial relationship between the two quite believable. Much of In the Woods takes place in the dark, with cinematographer Chris Hirschhäuser doing a splendid job of capturing the nocturnal proceedings.
After putting his characters and viewers alike through the wringer in the first act, writer/director Manuel Weiss then kicks things up a notch in the second act in a different, nonlinear manner, before delivering a third act in yet another different approach. It’s an interesting strategy that keeps viewers guessing, especially in the highly effective first act, when we are as lost in the woods as Mats and Mia.
Review by Joseph Perry
In the Woods screens as part of A Night of Horror International Film Festival, which takes place at Dendy Cinemas Newtown, Sydney, Australia, from October 17th until October 23rd, 2022. For more information, visit https://www.anightofhorror.com.