The Village in the Woods is a nifty folk horror, directed and written by Raine McCormack with co-writer John Hoernschemeyer. We watched it on Amazon Prime and also got the DVD (spoiler: we really liked it).
The recipe for folk horror is quite simple. You need a remote location, a horrible tradition that survived the Christianisation of Europe, and at least one unwitting visitor. (Many Lovecraft stories share these features, but folk horror is more likely to have a morris dance.)
In this case, the location is a rural village called Cooper’s Cross. Jason (Robert Vernon) and Rebecca (Beth Park) are there because Rebecca now owns the shuttered pub. They plan to “flip it” for a profit, but the over-friendly locals (played by a superb ensemble—more on them later) take it for granted that the newcomers will stay to run it. The locals are evil, which we expect—because the genre demands it—but the leads have secrets of their own. An immediate complication is the presence of Arthur (Sidney Kean), an angry squatter who lives in the pub, whose own story dovetails nicely with the one at hand.
The performances are uniformly strong, but the stars of the show are three of the villagers: temptress Maddy (played by Therese Bradley), her creepy beau Charles (played by Richard Hope), and poor haunted Arthur. The first pair do an excellent job with the material, letting lunacy shine through superficial charm. Their friendliness is eerie and mannered, which provides most of the fuel for the film’s “slow burn”. Revelations, when they come, are suitably unhinged.
The production is superb on a small budget, and the film gets an awful lot of mileage from atmospheric staging, muted colours and buckets of fog. The film is a lean eighty minutes and never outstays its welcome. The last scene wraps it up in a tidy way and sends you home satisfied.
I hugely enjoyed The Village in the Woods and made sure I ordered the DVD. I recommend you do the same, because it’s a lovely edition with a beautiful cardboard sleeve, and it’s always great to see cover art that a) looks really smart and b) is actually related to the film in question (which is depressingly rare for indie horror!). Getting back to the film, it’s amazing (and heartening) to see what a gifted auteur can do with a compelling story, good sets, a great cast and an industrial fog machine. The film not only pays tribute to the genre but is a worthy entry in its own right, and one of my favourite releases of 2019.
Still, why take my word for it? Here are some warm reviews from other blogs: