With Halloween going on, scary movies are all over the place. I should put scary in quotes, because, many horror films are violent or eerie but they’re not exactly “scary”. They’re too safe. Real scary, is the stuff that’s too disturbing to be explained away. Like that Ariel Castro asshole. He was scary because he was so far out there, it was impossible to make sense of. Well, if they ever made a biopic of that piece of filth, it might look a little like “Hidden in the Woods”, available now from Artsploitation Films. This Chilean film is supposedly based on a true story and it’s so messed up, there’s no doubt in my mind that it is. Want something terrifying for the 31st? Leave Freddy in slumberland and experience the kind of evil that can only be found in a real life psychopath.
Out in the country, Ana (Siboney Lo) and Anny (Carolina Escobar) live with their abusive drug-dealer father (Daniel Antivilo). Actually, abusive is an understatement. This guy beats and rapes the girls… the product of which comes a greatly deformed baby boy who looks sort of like a donkey. The boy is kept locked in a shed and left to die, but survives like an animal eating raw meat. One day when the police come to investigate, it’s their guns against the father’s chainsaw… and the girls manage to escape in the frenzy. Hiding out in a cabin in the woods, the children live a life away from society and seem the better for it. But this is no happy ending… Uncle Costello (Serge Francois), the drug kingpin their father worked for, thinks they ran off with a giant stash of drugs that had in fact, been hidden by Daddy-O. Naturally, he dispatches a band of thugs to kill them… if they can just find them.
My first reaction to this was, “Woah…. WOAH! What the hell am I watching?” The film deals with extremely graphic violence, sexual assault, prostitution and even cannibalism. To think that it’s based on actual events isn’t surprising, but it is stomach churning. To say this movie is depraved is like calling King Kong a monkey… this is the very definition of exploitation. As such, I took to it instantly, albeit with one eye open. From the beloved mutation that hobbles around eating bloody entrails, to the nonchalant attitude of Ana’s prostituting herself (it gets pretty sleazy), to the coldblooded violence featuring buckets of blood being tossed around with reckless abandon, this is a picture perfectly suited for a sleazy movie theater in a part of town that you don’t want to go to after dark. I was both shocked and in awe of the cojones it took to actually make a movie like “Hidden in the Woods”, because you’re certainly not going to see anything like this in a mainstream American horror. That said, Director Patricio Valladares is already working on his next film which happens to be an American remake of “Hidden in the Woods” starring Michael Biehn, so it will be interesting to see how far he’s willing to go in battling the MPAA.
No matter what happens, if Valladares can get the same caliber performances from his actors as he does in this one, we’re in for a terrifying experience. Siboney Lo and Carolina Escobar are as natural as watching subjects of a documentary and Jose Hernandez is flat out creepy as Manuel, despite being the only trustworthy male in the entire film. Shot on HDCAM, the film looks far better than it’s meager $90k budget would lead you to believe. Now, it’s possible some will try to trash the film for it’s amateur look – and while it does at times have an amateur quality, that would be ridiculous. There are plenty of straight to DVD movies that spend over 10 times the budget of “Hidden in the Woods” that try for an exploitation film look and they don’t even come close to nailing it. For odd some reason, people cry foul when they see the real thing. Grow up… Grindhouse/exploitation is kind of like medicine… feel that uncomfortable tingle? That means it’s working.
Artsploitation, knowing they’ve got solid gold with this one, doesn’t disappoint with the DVD release. This picture quality is fantastic, as is the 5.1 surround track and they’ve even included a few bonus features. There’s a 20+ minute “Behind the Scenes” featurette, which shows how bare bones this production really was, as well as a quick interview with Valladares about his upcoming English remake. There’s also a 3 minute “clap clip” which is a peppy, if somewhat senseless compilation of slate claps. Artsploitation has included the film’s original trailer as well as previews for their upcoming releases, which all have that sticky floor feel to them.
“Hidden in the Woods” scores 4 out of 4 devils for being some top notch grindhouse fare; over-the-top excess, squared. It’s not something you’re going to watch with your parents (or in some cases, your wife/girlfriend) in the house, but it’s definitely a MUST see. After all, the only thing worse than a horror film that creeps you out, is one that lives in your head for a few days and “Hidden in the Woods” is guaranteed to do just that. I can’t imagine what they’ll do for that remake…