Deep in the Woods (2000)
Directed by Lionel Delplanque

Starring Alexia Stresi Denis Lavant Marie Trintignant Maud Buquet Suzanne MacAleese

A group of young actors heads to an isolated estate to perform "Little Red Riding Hood" for a weird little child, whose bedridden, gay and crippled father seems to be suffering from an acute case of loneliness.

Naturally a killer shows up and starts killing off the actors in creative ways, one by one. There are "Little Red Riding Hood" analogies throughout the movie, which milks the original version of the story for all its worth. But that, and plenty of great atmosphere along with healthy doses of sex, aren't enough to save this French film from the direct-to-video dogpile. All of the young actor characters are such despicable people that one really doesn't care what happens to any of them. It's also pretty obvious who the killer is.

It is cool to see horror coming out of France these days. But this is sadly a pretty weak effort. It isn't helped by the fact that U.S. versions of the film are dubbed pretty badly. There are some bright moments, including the elegantly constructed opening death and some genuinely chilling moments filmed in the woods. But, again, the characters are all so despicable, you don't really identify with any of them. Also, director Lionel Delplanque seemed a little too determined to make a commercial and cynical "Scream"-like fear film, when that subgenre of horror had long since petered out by 2000.

Still, Delplanque is a young filmmaker (apparently only in his 20s when this film was finished) and it would be interesting to see what else he could conjure up if given a better script. "Deep in the Woods" might be worth catching for free on cable or, if you're really hungry for a modern fear film and can't find anything else at your Blockbuster, maybe worth a rental. But it's nothing that will be remembered long after it's left your VCR.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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