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Tony Curtis Blondell,
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Mary Kate Wiles
A group of artists, composed of the young actors Wilfried and Matthieu and the actresses Sophie, Mathilde and the dumb Jeanne, is hired by a millionaire, Axel de Fersen, to present a performance of Little Red Riding Hood in his isolated castle to celebrate the birthday of his grandson. Meanwhile, the police advises that a serial killer is raping and killing young women in the woods around that area. During the night, the group feels trapped and threatened in the castle, guessing who is and where might be the killer. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
UK journalist Alan Jones credits this ultra-successful Gallic shocker with helping to kickstart the recent trend in French genre cinema (BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, CRIMSON RIVERS, etc.), and it isn't hard to see why. Lionel Delplanque's hallucinatory fable attends the fortunes of five gorgeous young actors - two boys, three girls - during their visit to an isolated French château where they're hired to perform 'Little Red Riding Hood' for the oddball owner (François Berléand) and his autistic nephew (Thibault Truffert). News reaches them that a killer has escaped from police custody in the area, and when Berléand abruptly disappears (he's attacked in his bed), the actors are stalked by a murderous presence which kills them, one by one...
Though clearly influenced by its US counterparts (most notably PSYCHO and THE EVIL DEAD), DEEP IN THE WOODS also rehearses the core motifs of the Grimm fairytale ' Little Red Riding Hood' whilst simultaneously lifting most of its visual cues from European genre cinema, especially the films of Dario Argento, whose works are reflected in the classy camera moves, Gothic setting and dreamlike narrative structure; in other words, the plot meanders, but the movie LOOKS magnificent. However, we learn virtually nothing about the principal characters, except that they're sexually adventurous (two of the girls share a lesbian relationship, though one turns out to be bisexual) and that one of the guys (played by the impossibly handsome Vincent Lecur, whose beauty is *worshipped* by Denis Rouden's appreciative camera) seems intrigued by Berléand's obvious attraction to him.
As the bodies pile up, Delplanque's screenplay (co-written with Annabel Perrechon) casts suspicion in all directions, but the resolution is frankly incomprehensible and the build-up is stifled by the director's insistence on turning cinematic cartwheels in an effort to supplement the meagre narrative. Thankfully, the closing sequences defy expectations (there's no prolonged battle between virginal survivor and monstrous killer, for instance), but the characters are mere ciphers, which makes it hard to care one way or the other. Sumptuously designed, the film is stylish to a fault, but it's also shallow and unscary, the work of an enthusiastic director trying too hard to impress with his feature debut. Co-stars include Denis Lavant (BEAU TRAVAIL) and Marie Trintignant (daughter of French film legend Jean-Louis Trintignant), who died in 2003 following a violent assault for which her boyfriend - French rock singer Bertrand Cantat - was eventually tried and convicted.
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