It is never fun watching a movie do so many things right and still fail. In the same way as seeing the world’s most masterful frame on a hideous painting, there is only so much that one can improve the other. The shot has been filmed in an artistically unique way, the sound design is amazing, but nothing in the frame is interesting. The plot and story of Beyond the Woods constantly feels in direct opposition to the cinematography and it makes for a disappointing watch, to say the least.
Inside of an interrogation room, a detective is questioning Andrew on the whereabouts of his brother in law Jack. Before being arrested at a farmhouse in snow-covered countryside Jack arrives to stay with Andrew before his sister Laura’s, Andrew’s wife’s, funeral. While there he discovers Laura’s glasses in the fire pit in the backyard, and begins to wonder if she really went missing after all. After Jack accuses him of murdering his sister, Jack gets choked out by Andrew and wakes up chained to a tree. There he must listen to Andrew talk about what happened to Laura and stay alive in hopes that someone comes to rescue him soon.
It is not a stretch to say that Beyond the Woods is a technical masterpiece when it comes to cinematography, editing, and sound design. Each shot is so unique and can convey so much with no dialogue. When Jack accuses Andrew of killing Laura the whole scene is shot through a door frame and stays that way for the whole argument. The musical choices work in tandem with each shot to only add to the emotion of each scene. Then the editing and sound design connect where a scene will smash cut to another using only a similar noise as the connective tissue, a biting of an apple with the chopping of wood. The technical aspects of the film making in every shot are used to their fullest and are a sight to behold.
With so many incredible uses of the art of film making, the first thirty minutes sets up what will surely be a thrilling experience. The film in a short span has already set up the main conflict early with little build-up in the same way as Hereditary and Us do but doesn’t evolve in the same those films do. Instead, it does the opposite in the worst way, it wallows in the conflict giving the audience little to enjoy. The conflict of Jack chained to the tree and Andrew’s struggle to decide what to do with him is the rest of the movie, with the characters gaining almost no depth. All the beautiful visuals and shots in the world can’t save a movie with a puddle deep plot.
To say Beyond the Woods is a bad movie would be to completely ignore everything is does right, in the same way to say it is good ignores all the bad. This throws the film into the average category which is the worst place for a film to end up. This film should instead have the first thirty minutes show to a class of film students. Let them marvel at the masterful techniques and the immersive plot before it becomes stretched far too thin.
5 out of 10