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Lady Pam De GraffDARK WOODS (2010)
WRITTEN BY: John Muscarnero
DIRECTED BY: Michael Escobedo
FEATURING: John Muscarnero, Mary Kate Wiles, James Russo, Tracy Coogan, and Mark Shady
TAGS: drama, psychological thriller, disturbing

Note: Dark Woods is a horror movie, but it is a different kind of horror movie about trepidation, aversion, mistrust, uncertainty, memory, identity and waiting. Bloody death and supernatural fright junkies will be disappointed. Fans of gloomy, introspective cinema will be pleased.

PLOT: A disquieting love triangle brings madness and murder when a couple shelter a rape victim at their remote wilderness cabin.

COMMENTS: Hypnotic, leaden, ethereal, the tone of Dark Woods could be tailored for a story about deep space. The characters in this tale are so cut-off from convention, and removed from the outside world that they might as well be stranded in an interstellar void.

Themes of destruction are interspersed with raw tension in this moody, brooding horror piece about slow death and moral dilemmas. A bizarre love triangle sparks violent discord when a man rescues a teenage girl from an incestuous sexual assault and lodges her at the isolated deep woods cottage where he is caring for his terminally ill wife.



Stalked by a lurking intruder watching from the woods, the trio's personalities gradually acquire poisonous characteristics as their isolation dissolves limits and blurs boundaries. Their psyches merge in an unsettling collusion of cloaked motives and role reversals.

Dark Woods is not your typical horror story. There is little violence, and nothing supernatural. The plot advances slowly, like vitreous bile oozing from a catheter. A viscous suspension of foreboding and dread steadily thickens and foments. It threatens to drown the viewer in a deadpool of morbidly vicarious curiosity and unsettling apprehension. Sinister, dreamy, subtle, with surreal moments, Dark Woods is an atmosphere piece with a simple, linear plot, a heavy, unsettling tone, and a gloomy visual signature.


Dark Woods' atypical characters don't always appear to act in accordance with impetus, and this threw me at first until the climax and denouement more fully illuminated their twisted motivations. This movie requires some patience and will please viewers looking for something quietly horrifying and unconventionally different in the psychological thriller genre. I'm giving Dark Wood six pints of blood, not because it's lacking in any way, but because the film isn't for everyone.

I tend to reserve my higher ratings on this site for films that are exceptionally arty or sensational in some way, or which have a wider appeal. Dark Woods may be too plodding and ambiguous for some viewers. Slasher and horror fans in search of racy scares, blood, a clear storyline and an easily interpreted theme are advised to steer clear. If you like dreamy and dark, pensive and mysterious, and are looking for something different, this movie is for you.



Lady Pam De GraffCHAINED (2012)
WRITTEN BY: Damian O'Donnell, Jennfer Lynch
DIRECTED BY: Jennifer Lynch
FEATURING: Vincent D'Onofrio, Eamon Farren, Evan Bird , Julia Ormond, Conor Leslie, Jake Weber, Gina Philips, Daniel Maslany

PLOT: When a mother and son are kidnapped by a sexual psychopath, the serial killer keeps the son prisoner and raises him as a slave, training him in the art of murder.

COMMENTS: I don't normally go for slasher movies or stories about women being tormented and tortured, but Chained riveted me with its utterly bizarre story. I simply had to see how it was going to turn out. Directed by Jennifer Lych, Chained lives up to her to reputation for bringing us genuinely weird and disturbing stories. With convincing, hard-hitting performances, Chained is offbeat, harrowing to endure, and spirals toward an unexpected twist ending that I didn't see coming.




"Bob" (D'Onofrio ), a low functioning but cunning, speech impaired cab driver abducts his fares, a mother (Ormond ) and son (Bird), takes them to his fortified home in the utter middle of nowhere, and rapes and kills the woman. But what to do with her youngster son? Being a practical sort of fellow, Bob adopts him of course. Makes sense. But it's no ordinary adoption. Nicknaming the hapless youth, "Rabbit," Bob forces him to become his personal slave, coercing his new captive to clean the house and prepare his meals, allowing Rabbit to eat only table scraps, and literally chaining him to a wall to sleep.


Rabbit tries to escape, but Bob's abode, while resembling an unremarkable suburban home inside and out, is built like a fortress. When Rabbit finally squeezes through a window, tenacious, Argus-eyed Bob is right on top of him. There's no place to run to. Bob's murder house sits on a treeless, wasted plain, with no neighbors as far as the eye can see. There is nothing for miles and miles in every direction, but featureless prairie.

Resigning himself to his fate, Rabbit makes the best of things, following Bob's Draconian living code. Every few nights. Bob brings home a new, unwitting victim, a taxi passenger who discovers too late that there is no way out of Bob's death cab. Rabbit has to clean up the blood and later, Bob teaches him in the skill of dismemberment.

Bob and Rabbit form an uneasy alliance. Rabbit awkwardly and uncomfortably adapts to his situation. The gradual shift in his personality is disquieting. He's appalled by Bob's agenda, but too terrified to take aggressive action against him. Bob is too strong, too alert, and has all the bases covered. He anticipates Rabbit's every move before he can make it.

As Rabbit matures (now played by Eamon Farren), Bob assumes the twisted role of "father" - an insane, demented father. He appoints himself as Rabbit's mentor, home-educating Rabbit from textbooks and schooling him in darker subjects, such as anatomy, field surgery, and finally the craft of murder, all the better to indoctrinate Rabbit with the knowledge to one day kill effectively and dispose of bodies.

Oddly, Bob seems to take a genuine, paternal interest in Rabbit, but it is fraught with queasy contradictions. He wants Rabbit to be educated, yet denies him all access to the outside world, real life experiences and socialization. The only socialization Rabbit receives is a distorted one through his contact with this highly eccentric murderer.

Disturbingly, Rabbit is too afraid of Bob to just kill him. He passively cooperates with Bob's perverted endeavors, never killing any of Bob's victims himself, but aiding and abetting Bob's efforts. As we study the perplexing, edgy, ongoing interactions between the two over time, a dual character portrait of the pair emerges. Through flashbacks and nightmares, we discover that Bob was raised in a brutal, incestuous family. But while Bob's sociopathy was forged by his terrible experiences, there is little explanation for his homicidal instincts. No apology is made for him. He rapes and kills because he enjoys it. Misogynistic and hateful toward women, he has no mechanism through with to relate to them other than sexual assault and slaughter.


Chained is difficult to watch, but it's impossible to look away. As the story unfolds with a maddening deliberateness, one gazes with excruciating dread at Rabbit's transformation and Bob's power over him. Rabbit doesn't like the killing, but he cooperates. Rabbit's circumstances advance to an inevitable crossroads. The time will soon arrive when he must prove himself to Bob by committing his first homicide . Not knowing any other life, Rabbit will have to t chose between fighting his fear of Bob and refusing Bob's orders under penalty of death, or going against his instincts and becoming a serial killer himself.





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