A survivalist TV host finds himself in trouble when something in the woods is stalking him.
Doug Woods (Chris Diamantopoulos) is the host of Woods Vs., a show in which he is dropped into the middle of nowhere and has to survive for five days. He leaves his wife and daughter (Chloe Bradt and Kate Ziegler) and sets off with his camera crew (Michael Cram, Kelly Fanson, Alex Karzis) and his brother Terry (Drew Nelson). After being dropped into the woods, he hears a loud noise and feels the Earth shake beneath him. The next day, he finds that a number of fish in the lake are dead and the local wildlife are behaving strangely. It seems something has come into the woods besides him, and that something is toying with him. Now, Doug has to make his way back to civilization while avoiding this new threat, which, unfortunately, seems to be smarter than he is.
I want to start out by saying that I desperately want someone to try a premise like this again, but do it just a little better. Hell, you can use Chris Diamantopoulos again, since his portrayal of Doug Woods was actually pretty captivating, demonstrating a nice blend between survivalist and showman. His interactions with his audience are the majority of the film, with him speaking to the camera both as part of the show and as part of a surrogate confessional. It’s fun to watch him start swearing and complaining the minute he’s not “officially” recording. At no point do his conversations ever seem awkward or forced, which is impressive for a solo performance. Honestly, if they just had him film a show like that, I would have watched it.
The fact that the show-within-the-movie is so close to shows like Survivorman or Man Vs. Wild gives the plot a level of credibility. Normally, the idea of a random person stranded in the wilderness falls thin, because the person would just try to find civilization rather than trying to stay in the area where they’re being stalked. Instead, Doug is forced to at least try to ignore the threat, allowing for the audience to watch his slowly growing unease. I also like that they had almost everything that Doug shows the audience pay off later in the film, but not in the way that you would expect.
The problem is that the movie is NOT just watching Doug survive for five days. The movie introduces the threat indirectly, which is good, but it tries to focus the audience’s attention on it a bit too much. It starts to be a bit less believable that Doug doesn’t realize the full extent of what is happening when so many odd things are happening, but it also removes a little bit of the terror to see things happen so blatantly. The timing and the framing of each appearance is off just a little. When Doug finally starts to realize something else is definitely there, though, the initial reveal that the creature has been watching him and duplicating his survival techniques (including trying to treat Doug as prey) are really well-done. You can finally see Doug break down and Diamantopoulos really sells the fear.
Overall, the movie was pretty enjoyable for the first half. Unfortunately, I am going to have to put the negatives after the Spoiler Warning. I’d still recommend this for horror fans, but I’ll go ahead and warn you that the ending let me down hard on a lot of levels. Not enough to ruin the movie, but it’s like watching someone make a show that perfectly crafts character interactions for 6 seasons, then the writing makes people think a main character goes crazy because her nephew won’t bang her. Disappointing.
Okay, so, the creature is revealed to be an alien, which was probably pretty obvious from the crash at the beginning. Unfortunately, the alien is a conquering invader, which wrecks a lot of the movie. If the alien was like the predator, trying to hunt Doug for honor or sport, then it makes sense to study him and steal his techniques. Instead, we find out that aliens pretty much took over the Earth in the last 3 days, meaning that the creature followed Doug and didn’t just instantly kill him with its sonic weapon for… reasons? Also, despite having a main character who is a survivalist, he doesn’t actually deal with the alien using any survival techniques. The alien, who has superior technology and can apparently jump almost 100 feet, just happens to fall backwards into a pit and then succumbs to stones thrown by an injured person. Then, when it returns at the end, it just doesn’t avoid Doug shoving a motor into it. I’m not saying I needed Doug to prepare a series of Predator-style log traps, because I’ve seen that, but having the main character defeat a creature that apparently can learn what chess is and also how to beat a good player at it in 2 days using pretty much pure luck is unsatisfying. Also… CGI not great, sorry.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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