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Hidden in the Woods
There's a fine line between the shocking and the merely salacious. There's an even finer one between exploiting a subject and over-exposing an audience to material too grim to humanly contemplate. Take a film like I Spit on Your Grave. The subject matter wants to make the total debasing of an innocent woman it's first half stock in trade. Then, once she's been significantly defiled and left for dead, she returns to seek her revenge in ways just as nauseating as the manner in which she was treated. Then there's efforts like the Japanese Guinea Pig films, giddy gorefests where nothing is left to the imagination and everything is spelled out in alarmingly sexists visions of blood and torture. Sitting somewhere between these two extreme examples is the Chilean chum bucket Hidden in the Woods. As an illustration of how homemade horror filmmakers view their often unsettling sources, it's a rouser. There are more unnatural acts committed here, and equally aberrant consequences, than in Eli Roth's entire creative catalog. But that doesn't mean the movie is good, it just means it's good at grinding out the gratuity.
Perhaps the story is best told this way: Uncle Costello (Francois Soto) is a low level drug dealer who more or less owns a small town in Chile. He is helped in his trade by a "redneck" bumpkin (Daniel Antivilo) who owns a cabin in the woods. It is here where the kingpin hides his stash. It is also here where this perverted parent rapes and molests his two young daughters, Ana (Siboney Lo) and Anny (Carolina Escobar). The former has even had a mutant baby boy (José Hernandez) via her oversexed pappy. One day, the police come calling and Daddy decides a little chainsaw justice will keep his secret. Soon, the kids have escaped and he is jailed. This makes Uncle Costello mad, since he believes the errant father has stolen some of his drugs. He sends out a group of hitmen to find the girls and torture them into confessing where the missing kilos may be. What no one knows is that Ana has been working as a prostitute to feed the family, but when that avenue dries up, the clan recommits to their previous affinity...for human flesh.
If one had piece of paper and the propensity to do so, they could tick off the taboos featured full on throughout Patricio Valladares' effective if wildly excessive Hidden in the Woods. Aided and abetted by co-screenwriter Andrea Cavaletto , the film offers child abuse, child molestation, rape, murder, torture, cannibalism, sexual degradation, incest, white slavery, vivisection, and inbreeding, all in the name of seeing how far the filmmakers can push the limits of good taste. In fact, the last part of that sentence appears to be moot since no one involved in this production appears interested in staying within civilized limits. Taking a page from the Tyler Perry school of Male Characterization, every guy here is a potential pederast, each one leering over Ana and Anny like they are pieces of meat in a low rent butcher shop. Yes, Valladares hired two actresses with "ample assets" to make the objectification seem more "sensible," but when all your dudes want to do is diddle the underage females in the film, there's a real aura of ick involved. Maybe double or even triple ick.
Yes, Hidden in the Woods is the kind of movie experience that no series of showers can ever completely wash away. It's just one harrowing and horrific set-up for sexual battery and splatter after another. For example, Dad rapes Ana, and then we cut to a scene of the girl standing over a bucket, blood pouring from between her legs. Before you know it, a baby drops out, with Papa taking it out in the wood and abandoning it. When the hitmen show up, convinced our gals know exactly what Uncle Costello wants to know, they enjoy pounding their hands with hammers...and their asses with...It's stunning to learn that this movie is currently being remade in America, with Valladares at the helm and Michael Biehn as the King of Dysfunctional Dads (Wow - from The Terminator to twerking on your own child's privates - amazing). There's almost nothing the director won't have to tone down significantly in order to win an MPAA rating. In general, Hidden in the Woods is well made, with perhaps too many close-ups to hide the limitations of the special effect (this is especially true when Father goes Leatherface on some officials) and the acting is amateurish, especially from our two buxom leads. Still, if you want your tolerances tested, this movie will max our your horror film forbearance.
Offered up by Artsploitation in a decent DVD package, the 1.78:1 anamorphic image here could best be described as over the top. The colors are hyper saturated and the entire look of the film is low budget within a more professional setting (apparently, Valladares got the Chilean government to cough up some cash by hiding the truth of what he was making from officials). The frenetic editing style can get a bit tiresome, but overall, the movie looks pretty darn good. On the sound side of things, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish language track is not as immersive as one would hope. We do get some use of the back channels during quieter moments in the wood, but for the most part, the easy to hear dialogue and nasty sound effects are front and center. As for added features, there's a rather limited behind the scenes featurette, an interview with Valladares, and an eight page booklet featuring an essay by Travis Crawford and more from the filmmaker as he helms the American remake. Not bad, but a full blown feature length commentary would have been nice.
If you don't mind your gore and gratuity ladled on with a trowel the size of Texas, you'll love Hidden in the Woods. It's the kind of unapologetically vile experience that has a certain type of horror geek leaving their basement and firing up the big screen. On the other hand, some will see the overpoweringly offensive and brutal material and wonder, "what's the point?" For them, and for anyone else unsure of how they will handle 90 minutes of taboo busting torment, the film earns a rating of Rent It. Decades ago, patrons used to pay sideshow carnival barker fifty cents to watch a psychologically unbalance person bite the heads off chickens. Today, we make movies like Hidden in the Woods. Same idea. Different execution.
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