Who doesn’t love a nice long hike in the woods? The chirping of birds, the rapid yet calm ebb and flow of streams and the crazy, cannibalistic wood people out for your blood! Oh wait, I don’t think that’s part of the regular nature experience. Which is why you should always be prepared for the unexpected. Joshua Brucker’s latest film, The Woodmen explores just what can happen when you run into the unexpected out in the woods.
After two hikers go missing in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains, anthropologist Dr. Scott Laroche (played by Dan Grogan) goes to investigate the cause of their disappearance and also conduct some research. Meeting with two park rangers, Dr. Laroche is told that strange creatures were rumored to live in the woods. One of the rangers, Ben Logan (played by Hunter Nino), takes Dr. Laroche up to the site where the hikers went missing. Camping overnight, the two eventually run into the creatures: cannibalistic people who live in the woods. Dr. Laroche captures evidence of the woodmen on camera before running into another hiker and vlogger, Dawn Becker (played by Anna Clary). Together, they do their best to elude the gruesome woodmen.
I’m no stranger to found footage movies. In fact, most of the horror movies I’ve reviewed on Film Purgatory are found footage. And upon initial viewing, I thought it was very similar in premise and plot to another found footage film taking place in the woods. However, upon thinking about it, the best way I can describe this is The Hills Have Eyes meets the Baker family from Resident Evil VII. The woodmen themselves are about as savage and brutal as you’d expect cannibalistic people living out in the woods to be. While they appear to just be dirty and ragged, that adds to the fear factor. There’s a common saying that the scariest creature out there is another person, which this movie takes to heart. With their disheveled appearance, decayed flesh and endless craving for human flesh, the woodmen resemble zombies more than humans.
But besides the terrifying and savage portrayal of the woodmen, this is perhaps the most visceral entry in the Cryptid Cinematic Universe created by Horror Dadz Productions. The way the woodmen attack and brutally tear apart their victims coupled with the stellar sound design made it all the more gut wrenching (pun intended). Although we don’t actually see any graphic depictions of gore, the sound design helps bridge the gaps of your imagination.
This isn’t the first found footage horror movie that I’ve seen that took place in the woods. But what does it have that the others before it didn’t? The balance of likable characters and plenty of scares. Both Dawn and Dr. Laroche are drawn into the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains for their own reasons: the former to spread her dad’s ashes and the latter to conduct research on the woodmen. I cannot imagine the amount of trauma Dawn went through, first after finding out her father passed away, then witnessing the existence of the woodmen. As for the horror element, although I found a few parallels with Tahoe Joe, The Woodmen is far grittier in how it presents itself. Replacing the lighthearted banter is a far more sinister and paranoia-inducing looming threat. You could feel not only the presence of the woodmen, but even when they do attack, it still catches you off guard.
All-in-all, Joshua Brucker’s The Woodmen is yet another solid entry into the Cryptid Cinematic Universe. This is the second film by Joshua Brucker that I’ve seen, after the two–part film, Split Screen. Full of suspense, horror, visceral violence and likable characters, The Woodmen not only acts as a solid standalone found footage horror film, but also makes me more excited to see what Horror Dadz Productions has in store for their cinematic universe. Go give this one a watch when it releases on Amazon Prime! And make sure to stay past the entire credits for a surprise.