Review: Irish Horror BEYOND THE WOODS Is Rich In Characterisation

3.5 out of 5 stars

When you’ve seen as many horror films as Movies In Focus, then you’re always hoping that you’ll dig into something that’s a little fresher which offers up something different rather than more of the same. I found that in Sean Breathnach’s Beyond The Woods, a well characterised low budget ‘cabin in the woods’ film set in Ireland.

The film sees a group of old friends meet up in a remote house in the Irish countryside. It looks like it’ll be a weekend of fun and frolics but a dampener is put on proceedings when a sinkhole opens up close by. However the molten cavity unleashes more than a bad smell from its sulphurous fumes…

I’ve said time and time again that horror films are built on strong characterisation – and Beyond The Woods has it in spades. You get to know each of the characters before the supernatural elements kick in and this puts Sean Breathnach’s film in good stead from the beginning. It also helps that the film’s cast (Claire Loy, Seán McGillicuddy, Irene Kelleher, John Ryan Howard, Ruth Hayes, Ross Mac Mahon and Mark Griffin) deliver good performances, offering up some personality in the way that they tackle their roles. Good dialogue adds authenticity and you believe that these people are really friends. In fairness, I think that there might just be a touch too much of this set-up as it takes a while for the horror elements to kick-in. However, that’s a small niggle when you’re given well constructed characters in a horror flick. I’d rather have more of that, than less.

Beyond the Woods features some good creature make-up and Breathnach creates some authentic tension as the horror builds. There are also a few nice visual flourishes and genre nods – with a touch of Sam Raimi and George A. Romero along with hints of Frank Darabont’s Stephen King adaptation The Mist, while the last shot in particular reminds me of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the staging.

It’s a small movie, but Beyond The Woods packs a hefty punch. Great performances and strong characterisation and storytelling means that this doesn’t feel light weight. The first act could be a little tighter and I might have wanted a bit more gore, but this hits the spot in a way that few independent horrors rarely do.