There’s nothing wrong with ambiguity per se. In horror it can be a powerful tool with which to disarm and unsettle the audience. All we ask is that your plot makes some sense. Please.
Gilles Marchand and Dominik Moll’s script starts on a sure footing, as French brothers Tom (Timothé Vom Dorp) and Benjamin (Théo Van de Voorde) visit their estranged father in Sweden. Tom, to quote a hundred more interesting action stars, has a bad feeling about this. You can’t help but agree with him as the plot slowly starts to resemble a modern-day, ham-fisted Frankenstein.
The seeds of horror cliché are sown early, but never resolve into anything meaningful. Even worse, they’re rarely scary beyond the occasional jump scare. The deformed figure that haunts Tom and his family through the woods is disconcerting enough, but without a strong narrative around him, he’s just a shape in the dark.
The script offers an ambiguous resolution to the plot, but it makes very little sense. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that a hefty portion of what we’ve just seen was imagined by Tom. It’s a lovely way to suddenly realise you’ve wasted 103 minutes of your life.
Thankfully, the contributions elsewhere are much stronger. Vom Dorp is an incredibly cute and engaging screen presence, while Jérémie Elkaïm is also strong as the boys’ father, steering the film’s much more compelling subplot about a man’s obsessive need to raise and control his sons.
Director Marchand is adept at building tension, but the blame for the film’s confusing conclusion must surely lie at his feet too.
No film featuring the words “It’s a house in the woods. You’ll love it” is going to end happily. There are glimmers of an interesting film, but this still feels like a work in progress.
CAST: Timothé Vom Dorp, Théo Van de Voorde, Jérémie Elkaïm
DIRECTOR: Gilles Marchand
WRITERS: Gilles Marchand and Dominik Moll
SYNOPSIS: Two young boys visit their estranged father in Sweden, where he decides to take them on a mysterious journey into the forest. What they find there changes their lives forever.