Review by Mark Schwab
August 2nd, 2016
Five old friends decide to take in the scenery at a secluded cabin right in the heart of the "Silver Woods" - a place they are specifically told to avoid by the local park ranger when it comes to exploring. What's lurking in the Silver Woods? Writer/director Clay Moffatt obviously wants to try and pile on the creepiness and mystery in having the audience find out. Unfortunately, we don't get much of either.
SILVER WOODS begins promisingly with a slick title sequence and a buzzing score to set the mood. As the characters drive to the setting, we establish the cabin and its environs and they look terrific and surreal (shot on location in Flagstaff, AZ). But then it quickly started to make mistakes literally as soon as the characters walk in the front door of the cabin. Right off, the interiors were flatly lit with almost no contrast which makes it challenging to create an interesting visual space - critical to establishing an atmosphere of dread in a horror film. Also, the music score abuptly changed in quality from the strongly composed title sequence into a tinkly mood killer. I found it distracting and it really sounded like two completely different people composing a score for two different movies. There are also many instances where the geography of the scene is not well-established by the actor's eyelines not matching up when they talk to each other (otherwise known as The 180 Degree Rule).
The screenplay also takes way too long to get into the mystery of the Silver Woods. There are very long sequences of the five characters chatting/talking over each other about how who used to like who and how they've drifted apart over the years. This can be watchable only if the acting and dialogue are absolutely top notch and while everyone seems to be relatively comfortable on camera the main note I wrote down about the perfomances was "casual". All of them just blend together with no discernable character traits. Only the main good guy played by Jonathon Booker works hard on screen to stand out and he does have one effective acting moment towards the end of the movie that is surprisingly emotional.
Ironically, once a couple of the characters finally do go into the Silver Woods and come back..."changed"...it started to get my attention a little bit. As the reveal starts to unfold, I will admit that I didn't see what Moffatt was planning. The ultimate idea here is original and not easily predicatable which deserves some points. However the execution underrcuts it - especially when two of the characters literally explain through dialogue the entire mystery like it was storytime in a classroom. That doesn't work and it shows a lack of confidence in using visuals and subtlety to creep us out a la David Lynch.
A little re-writing (or maybe even just some re-editing), the clearly motivated crew and perfect location could transform this into a wonderfully tense 10-15 minute mindbender. But as it is now, SILVER WOODS hikes at too slow a pace to scare me.