"This is my first full on 'shit your pants' horror film," horror director Adam Wingard tweeted today, regarding his mysterious new movie called The Woods. Its Twitter account @TheWoods appeared today, and the film is being touted as "one of the scariest movies ever made."
But any horror fan should know to be skeptical of the big ol' horror hype machine. It ruined the otherwise excellent The Witch for some people, who went into it thinking it would be Satan-summoning scary. (The Witch is a great movie—just not the scariest.) Last year's It Follows was also hyped for conventional horror movie scares rather than the more metaphorical, cerebral kind it actually contains. The Blair Witch Project also jumped on the hype machine back in '99, its "true story" marketing helped by its pre-Internet era. But with social media spreading the word faster than ever, horror's taken on more self-sabotaging tendencies. You hear something is the "scariest ever," and then it's not, and then it becomes a letdown when it never had to be in the first place.
The Woods is the talk of the horror streets today, even trending on Twitter for a moment. We're four months away from the release date (Sept. 16) and already there are a lot of expectations hanging over this movie. Fail to be shit-your-pants scary and the horror heads will lash out about it.
So what the hell is The Woods? And can we even believe the hype? Could this really be one of the scariest movies ever? Here's what we know: Wingard confirmed (with an emoji) that it's a found-footage film. Starring a cast of mostly unknowns (James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry, Corbin Reid, and Wes Robinson), it follows a bunch of college kids who go camping and discover something evil lurking in the woods. They're not alone. The woods make for a pretty unoriginal horror setting, as does the found-footage format at this point. What does sell it for me, though, is that the film finds Adam Wingard—one of the genre's best working directors today—reunited with his long-time writing partner Simon Barrett, with whom he's helmed segments of V/H/S 1 and 2, as well as full features The Guest and You're Next. Nothing about Wingard and Barrett is basic, and those who know their work shouldn't even worry about the standard woods trope. In fact, all their projects have pushed the boundaries of horror with hilarious and thrilling surprises that manage to be subversive, and a predictable premise only gives them more room for pants-shitting twists. Their Facebook page mentions that it "reinvents horror with a completely fresh and terrifying take on the genre," and I believe it.
Some critics have already seen the film and tweets have started to pour in today with the trailer premiere. Fangoria's Sam Zimmerman called it "spooky af," while critic Jen Yamato said it will "blow minds." Time Out New York's Joshua Rothkopf said it had "moments that made me want to yank out my hair. Truly unnerving." And then there's Adam Wingard's own tweet. You're Next was an underrated masterpiece, and arguably Wingard's scariest, but even the terrors in that film didn't qualify as "shit your pants" level to Wingard. The Woods, on the other hand, is, so he promises.
Speaking to Wingard at SXSW earlier this year, I asked the director if he ever gets disturbed working on his projects. "I don't think I have," he said, adding, "being disturbed by [my work] is very hard." "Adam's sick, he's the disturber," chimed in actor Patrick Fugit, who worked with Wingard for an episode of Outcast. So for Wingard to say this is his first full on "shit your pants" movie—well, that sounds legitimately promising.