Woodland Grey is a Canadian independent horror film and the feature-length debut from director Adam Reider. Co-written by Reider and Jesse Toufexis, this psychological thriller demonstrates how we process grief and pain when faced with an immense loss. The film is set in an ethereal forest, isolating the protagonists, and creating an atmosphere that one can’t help but wish to escape from. Reider forces us to look at what transpires when we cannot escape our trauma and lose the control to avoid it.
William (Ryan Blakely, My Babysitter’s a Vampire, Orphan Black) lives in a trailer in seclusion in the woods. While tending to his daily foraging activities, he finds Emily (Jenny Raven, Black Mirror), unconscious. He brings her back to his camp, allowing her time to heal and rest before leading her out of the forest. When Emily discovers a disturbing secret in William’s camp, things take a dark turn, as Emily unleashes something ominous. While trying to make sense of the supernatural forces trapping them in the woods, their grasp on reality wanes.
Woodland Grey is scored superbly by Italian composer Daniele Carreta, who weaves an environment of unease that devolves quickly into desperation and fear. The film’s tone plays a significant role just like the characters. Carreta’s score lends itself to this surreal thriller allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the terror that William and Emily feel.
Blakely’s performance is eerie and unsettling, allowing us to question whether his awkwardness is due to his separation from the populace or the evil that torments him. At the same time, Raven brings a sense of urgency to her portrayal of Emily and her desperation to escape the forest and the lone stranger residing there. Both actors bring authentic believable discomfort to the screen as two strangers are stuck in an ever-shifting reality.
Woodland Grey suffers from an identity crisis that unfortunately burdens the audience with excessive flashbacks and ploys that are misleading. It seems stuck somewhere between a psychological thriller, a supernatural tale of survival horror, and a folk horror story. The narrative gets muddled as it drags itself through an abundance of ideas. Occasionally, the pacing falters as scenes linger unnecessarily, failing to create the desired tension. I can appreciate what Reider is reaching for with this film and look forward to him finding his footing in the genre. The film successfully holds a mirror up to the grieving process, and the regret and guilt that comes with it.