Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Patricia Clarkson, Bruce Campbell, Lauren Birkell, Jane Gilchrist
Director: Lucky McKee
Release Date: 3 October 2006
Length: 91 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: Streaming on Computer
My Rating: 3/5 stars
“Set in 1965 in the buttoned-up world of an all-girls private boarding school, this horrifying tale features the acting chops of Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, who appears as the chilly headmistress. Based on the nightmarish visions she’s been having since her arrival, new student Heather (Agnes Bruckner) knows that the woods surrounding the school aren’t normal. And when her classmates begin disappearing, she has no choice but to investigate.” — Netflix.com
This movie started out as a decent thriller that morphed unexpectedly into a horror movie for the last 20-30 minutes. This was too bad as I think that they really limited their audience by putting so much blood and gore into the ending. If they had stayed with the more spooky supernatural thriller scenario that they were working with at the beginning, this movie could have earned a PG-13 rating and brought in a big teen audience, in my opinion. Still, it was enjoyable and I enjoyed the rather slow pacing and discoveries for the first 3/4s of the movie.
The setting was really well done in this film. There is just something so inherently creepy about an unknown forest that the director really didn’t have to do much to get viewers to feel the spooky vibe. The school is set in an old mansion that is surrounded by trees. If you pay attention, you will see that the trees are almost a part of the house as the branches slowly crept into the windows and attached themselves to the walls. Anytime that the forest is shown in the movie with the characters looking directly at it, there is a sudden hush and you just hear the whisper of the leaves. There is almost, but not quite, a voice that is calling to you and the play of light and dark as the sunlight filters through the branches adds to the creep factor – even in broad daylight! I thought that this was really well done and, while the inside of the mansion was a little spooky, the outside grounds were by far the spookiest part of the movie.
I found the story mildly entertaining and, while I know that I was given all of the pieces to solve the puzzle before the ending, I couldn’t really be bothered to focus and put them together myself so I found plenty of little surprises throughout the movie. There was a really nice supernatural touch involved with a kind of witch-like power that some characters cast. The main character (Agnes Bruckner) also hears voices, has strange dreams and has some psychic powers. The touches were small and relatively subtle so you cannot really call this a fantasy movie, but I would have enjoyed seeing these plot lines get more development instead of the dramatic, horror-filled ending.
The acting was decent. Most of the roles were filled by teenage girls as they are at a girls’ boarding school and I felt that they all did an adequate job. The adult teachers were nice and creepy, especially the headmistress, played by Patricia Clarkson. There is something so unnerving about a person who doesn’t lose their temper, especially when you can sense that they wield a great deal of power. I am not sure who played the other adult teachers in the movie, but they were all weird and had these strange tics so you knew there was something not quite right about them. I particularly enjoyed the music in this movie and loved the songs that they chose. They were 1960s-style songs that were in direct contrast to the dark and gloomy setting so I thought that the music added a wonderful extra touch to the movie.
This is not a standout supernatural thriller, but it was an enjoyable movie. I cannot say that I will see it again or that I will go around recommending it to my friends, but I quite enjoyed myself while watching this on my computer. If you are looking for a good, mildly unnerving and creepy movie to watch online in your spare time, I think you will enjoy this one.
This movie contains peer bullying, punching and some strong language. The ending is pretty bloody and has a lot of gore and dead bodies. The trees do kill some people before the ending, but you don’t really see how they die, just their bodies afterwards. The movie also includes teen suicide, nightmares, a less-than-loving relationship between mother and daughter and other dark themes. Recommended for ages 18 and up.