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DOOR IN THE WOODS is an ultra-low-budget demon-themed supernatural horror picture.
A new-in-town family, still in the process of establishing themselves in town and facing serious financial challenges because the local employment picture has not worked out as expected, has to get a little creative in order to make ends meet. The family consists of a mom, Evelyn, a dad, Redd, and a son, Kane, who has some special education needs.
The family, out on a day hike as a form of very inexpensive family entertainment, chance upon a creepy looking door just standing there, by itself, in a little clearing. In spite of the fact that it looks very creepy, has scorch marks and other signs of excessive and unusual wear AND is literally bound in chains, Evelyn falls in love with it (of course) and wants to refurbish it and install it in their new home to solve a little home decor problem she's been having on the cheap.
Unfortunately, the door is a portal to a demon realm and the head honcho demon behind it has a proclivity for stealing children. And Kane is a slow moving target, pun intended.
Very low-budget movies are often difficult for me to watch, let alone enjoy. The fact of their low-budget circumstances usually bleeds into every facet of the movie. Having no money to work with usually ALSO means no talent to work with, no skill to work with, no story to work with, no special-effects to work with, and so on. It's just hard to see the charm of a movie through such a forest of hairy warts. Being beautiful on the inside can only go so far.
The key to a successful very low-budget movie is the story. The story has to be both engaging, entertaining and interesting AS a story, AND it must also do double duty covering for, and largely obfuscating, all the other weaknesses and blemishes caused by the nonexistent budget. Being able to accomplish script-writing on $0.10 a day is a very particular and specific skill. You have to write a good story that can STILL BE a good story with almost nothing else supporting it except perhaps some (at least) competent acting. Puttin' on a show in the barn requires a story specifically written with the barn in mind.
DOOR IN THE WOODS comes close to pulling off this delicate balancing act and probably would have except for the climax scene that ran itself right into the ground and took the movie with it.
DOOR IN THE WOODS has a simple but serviceable plot (for a budget horror picture). The only actor that does a definitively bad job is the school principal; everybody else carries off their acting adequately. As so often happens, the children are the best actors. It often surprises me how often kids are such good actors. Maybe they just haven't lived long enough to know self-consciousness-driven fear.
The story is thoughtfully written to avoid the need of virtually any special-effects or expensive/complicated settings or contexts. Everything happens, and organically needs to happen, in common, inexpensive, everyday contexts like schools, homey-homes and woods. DOOR IN THE WOODS could be shot in any neighborhood with a nearby park.
One of the giant tells of a not-only-cheap-but-crappy low-budget movie is the hyper-overuse of character close-ups as if the cameraman is obsessed with shoving his camera up the actor's noses, and thankfully DOOR IN THE WOODS only gives in to this tendency occasionally. The reason cheap-and-crappy movies engage in this behavior is because by doing this they don't have to show context. You can film an entire movie in the filthy bathroom of an abandoned gas station this way. Or at least that's what amateurish, talentless directors THINK.
DOOR IN THE WOODS even has a nice, grisly little sparkle at the end that I thought worked very well and illustrated the parent's desperation.
Unfortunately, the climactic scene for the movie is this situation where Evelyn and Redd, together with their deaf advisor-of-the-supernatural, have this tête-à-tête with the boss demon in an attempt to negotiate their kid away from the demon's clutches. The scene dragged on endlessly and the distorted speech of the deaf advisor, entertaining and intriguing in small doses, became tiresome, irritating and painful to watch when consumed by the gallon. I suspect the movie was running short and the director was hoping he could pad it out by exploiting the novelty of watching a deaf expert-on-the-supernatural argue it out with a demon; it didn't work. The scene itself, at least, would have worked if it had been shorter by two thirds. As it is, it completely killed the momentum of the movie in my opinion.
Lastly, you'll notice I gave DOOR IN THE WOODS a 6/10 rating. Keep in mind that I use a subjective and relativistic scale in my assessment of movies. I rate movies relative to others of its ilk (which in this case is the genre of El Cheapo supernatural horror movies) and how well I perceive the movie turned out relative to the movie it was intended to be by its makers. In other words, I wouldn't rate DOOR IN THE WOODS against GONE WITH THE WIND. DOOR IN THE WOODS rates very favorably in most respects within its genre. Unfortunately, the climactic scene went on for SO LONG it became painful to watch and brought down my rating of the entire movie.
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