"The Woods" is an aimless satire with no narrative shape -- and no compelling character dynamics or sharp perspective to compensate.

One of several Sundance movies this year that illustrate the perils of shooting with little or no script — presumably hoping structure will magically manifest in the editing room — “The Woods” has the not-bad idea of letting Gen Y-ers go “Lord of the Flies” on their own after society collapses. But this aimless satire has no narrative shape — and no compelling character dynamics or sharp perspective to compensate. Distribution is likely to be solely of the DIY download type.

As Dean’s (Justin Phillips) voiceover narration informs, civilization is seriously wobbling for various reasons, so eight early-twentysomethings repair to the Oregon redwoods to start fresh. They’re ill equipped for off-grid life, however, having brought all their electronics, toys, junk food and raver clothes; skill sets stretch no further than face-painting. When the society left behind really does implode, and power sources die, these grownup children — particularly pontificating leader Daniel (Toby David) — haven’t the faintest idea what to do next. Jokes about kids panicking without Facebook or Twitter are already tired, and “The Woods” really doesn’t have anything bigger on its mind. Wyatt Garfield’s lensing and the interesting soundtrack elevate an otherwise gormless mess.

The Woods


A Monte Lomax, Greencard Pictures and Team G presentation in association with Kickstarter. Produced by Matthew Lessner, Jett Steiger, Max Knies. Executive producers, Kickstarter, Mike King. Directed, edited by Matthew Lessner. Screenplay, Lessner, Adam Mortemore, Toby David, Justin Phillips.


Camera (color, Super 16-to-HD), Wyatt Garfield; music, Lydia Ainsworth; production designer, Erin Staub; art director, Chris Edley; set decorators, Derek Paul Boyle, Judge Dylan Finklea; costume designer, Jessica Matz. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (New Frontier), Jan. 27, 2011. Running time: 94 MIN.


Toby David, Justin Phillips, Nicola Persky, Adam Mortemore, Brian Woods, Anne-Sophie, Lauren Hamersmith, Amanda Furches, Chris Edley.

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