Editor Note: Tom Leven joins us with his new series entitled Tom’s “Prime” Time Reviews, noting that Prime is in quotes which means these are Amazon Prime shows he is reviewing. Some may be Amazon originals and some may be something that Amazon bought and is running for Prime Viewers.
Let’s see what Tom has to say about his selection this time.
Take it away Tom:
I’m an author and a former theatre guy. I got and still get professional and amateur reviews. Good ones, bad ones. I’ve won awards, and I’ve been raked over coals. At one point, we had four theatre reviewers in town, yet one of my shows managed to net five negative reviews.
Still not sure how that happened.
Our theatre company was a Mickey & Judy effort, guerilla theatre all the way. After thirteen seasons, our consistent audience came to enjoy (I think?) seeing how we’d make a show come together with limited resources. As a result, I love the creative and artistic underdog.
Indie filmmaking is made of nothing but underdogs. It’s the nature of the biz. And I’m loathe to give movies released exclusively on Prime a bad review.
But Silver Woods, I’m afraid . . . even by my generous and loving standards, I’m going to have to be frank about this one.
Four young friends score a cabin in the woods (no pun intended) for a weekend. One by one they disappear, only to reappear acting strangely. There’s something in the forest . . . something . . . EVIL.
If that sounds at all familiar, you’re right. These young gun filmmakers are off on the wrong foot with a premise that has just about been done to death. Having said that, I don’t disapprove of the premise; most of us, myself included, learned by imitation, so, let’s give them a pass on that.
The characters are pleasant, likeable, and easy to hang out with. None of the five main characters are out of “central casting.” I bring this up only because we are in an era where it needs to be brought up.
The cinematography for Silver Woods is pretty rough, and the acting is, too. I get the impression that some or all five of the principals are models trying to break into film; and/or are friends of the filmmakers. It’s hard to come down too hard on the performances however, because the dialogue is so poorly written. It’s hard to determine if the actors need more work or if they are really doing the best with what they’ve got.
At several points early in the film, it sounds like the actors are improvising to some degree. In fact, I hope they are. It’s largely believable banter, but in one case it goes on far too long. Then the script kicks back in with lines like these:
“You know, through all these years, you never really changed.”
No one talks like that. Not outside Downton Abbey anyway. Later, two big, buff, young dudes take a walk in the dark and say things like:
“You know, it really is a nice night for a walk.”
Oh, boy. One last one:
“I miss you. I miss us. I miss the group. Sometimes it’s hard to make new friends.”
This sort of rigid dialogue—and it is rampant—suggests this is the screenwriter’s first script. I certainly hope so. Very little of it moves the story forward or develops character; it just sounds like the screenwriter’s most valiant effort to sound “natural.” Tip: Great cinematic dialogue is rarely actually natural. I wondered if maybe this was some kind of church project; there is only one instance of swearing, and it’s not exactly R rated. I might not have noticed the lack of profanity except the characters are also made to use words like “heck” and “gosh.” Better not to use them at all. (I do admire the restraint, to be honest, but it also takes a toll on the realism the filmmakers seem to be aiming for with their cinema verite cinematography and improvisational style of acting.)
The script avoids playing the characters as stereotypes or tropes, which is great; there is a refreshing lack of douchbaggery in these characters, which in many ways is a bold choice by the filmmakers, particularly for what is ostensibly a horror film.
Frankly, Silver Woods is not really a horror movie, as there is nothing to be afraid of. There are no special effects to grab us, and the story, once the disappearances are accounted for, isn’t played in an effective way. The plot and Big Secret are related to the audience almost entirely via dialogue, as if it were some kind of art film. The setting had the potential to bring in some real low-key terror, but any opportunity for this is lost by the lackluster script.
The pacing is lethargic. There is simply far too much set-up and very little in terms of payoff. A half hour in, and nothing has happened. There’s been friendly banter (too much of it); hanging out with a writer-hermit at his cabin in the woods; and being warned away from Silver Woods by the park ranger.
I can’t honestly recommend this to the average horror fan perusing Prime, most of whom could probably make a better movie themselves (or already have).
But having said that . . . in its own way, Silver Woods is an important Prime movie because it does show that yes, anyone with access to a camera can make themselves a film and get it up on Amazon. If this movie motivates more young people to say I can do that (or I can do better than that) then that’s great.
The crew gets high marks for their cover art, which was intriguing enough to warrant a click, and the opening credit design strikes me as professional. I don’t know if this is writer/director/editor Clay Moffatt’s first gig, but you know what? I kinda hope it is, because he can only go up from here. There’s good bones in these Woods, and the only way to get better is to keep making movies.
Anyone who’s read “Rodriguez’s rules for filmmaking” could have made Silver Woods. But not everyone will, and I believe the cast and crew should be commended and encouraged.
Director: Clay Moffatt
Writer: Clay Moffatt
Stars: Adam Berardi, Jonathon Booker, Titus Covington
As of this writing:
Prime customer reviews: 2.2/5
My rating: 2/5
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