The highlight of any season of the FX anthology American Horror Story is always the creepy and evocative opening titles based on whatever that year’s theme is. At 90 seconds long, they’re perfect snapshots of what the show is trying to do. Stretch one out to a full 100 minutes and you’d have something that looks like Woodshock, a moody and stylish fever dream of a movie with the depth of a frisbee and an infuriating refusal to tell any kind of story or have any real characters.
Kirsten Dunst plays Theresa, a medical marijuana pharmacist mourning the death of her mother and dealing with this grief in profoundly unhealthy ways. She has intermittent hallucinations that may suggest a crack in her psyche, or the presence of something supernatural, but she refuses to confide in either her husband Nick or old friend Keith (Joe Cole and Pilou Asbæk, each utterly wasted in blank-slate roles).
Instead, she wanders around town (the title suggests a forested horror, but there are barely any woodland shenanigans), in a series of visually arresting scenes that mean and amount to nothing. By the hour mark, it becomes hard not to yell at the screen for Woodshock to do, say, or be something, anything – but a steadfast commitment to incoherence stops any progress from being made until the last 10 minutes. By that point it’s too little, far too late and a few of these developments don’t make any kind of sense, even in the trippy, sensory world established by the Mulleavy sisters, who make their directing debut here.
You can’t fully dismiss Woodshock with its cloying atmosphere and excellent final shot, but that doesn’t mean it’s close to being a good film. Despite Dunst’s engaging presence, it’s hard to imagine where it will find an audience.
CAST: Kirsten Dunst, Pilou Asbæk, Joe Cole
DIRECTORS: Kate Mulleavy, Laura Mulleavy
WRITERS: Kate Mulleavy, Laura Mulleavy
SYNOPSIS: A woman falls deeper into paranoia after taking a deadly drug.