The Blair Witch Project has a lot to answer for. Whether the makers of the film knew their no budget hit would spawn a whole slew of copycats, parodies and rip offs I don’t know, but they’re to blame for all of the “twat in the woods” genre which are favoured by directors who want to make something but don’t really want to spend much doing so.
Now the inevitable comparison is out of the way, will “Panteon Woods” bring anything different to the table? will people who despise the Blair Witch style found footage films think any differently of this one?
The quick and easy answer to the latter question is… no. If you find torch lit footage of trees with a wobbly voice over and shaky cam shots of leaves irritating, you’re probably best of leaving this one on the shelf… or whatever the modern day equivalent of video rental is. If that kind of thing tickles your pickle however?
Riley Rey & her sister Rebecca are bringing the cameras this time, they’re on the hunt for the mythical “Chanoc”, a wearwolf type creature that supposedly resides in the titular Panteon woods. It’s for a good cause though, followers and hits for Riley’s youtube channel, and exposure for Rebecca’s fledgling cinematography career. They’re joined by Greg Blackrot, an unlikely named tracker/survivalist/trained killer/old curmudgeon who’s been hired to help them survive in the scary woods and track the creature down.
So far, so Blair witch. The film continues to follow the same pattern of most found footage movies also with one on one talking head interviews with people who’ve heard stories or experienced the beast… sexually in one case. Then after 2 days in the woods and about to head home, the twist! which is handy as up until that point the worst that happens is squirrels dropping their nuts on a tent. This is when the film finally gives you something a little different and picks up considerably. While it’s not ground breakingly original and totally not explained it’s a relief to finally have something to watch other than people faffing around a forest.
All films like this totally rely on how you feel about the main characters, Riley Rey (Heather Jane Farr) is an annoying self important wannabe internet celebrity and I dislike her like I dislike most of those people, she’s after hits and trying her hardest to be liked. It’s only when she’s really in danger that I felt anything for her and that’s only a fraction of a economic 70 minutes. Riley’s sister Rebecca (Nixon Vikki) and Greg (Richard Wotkun) bicker and flirt all the way through their journey almost at random giving no real meat to hook onto their characters. I’m pretty sure however her aspiring career in film isn’t being helped at all with the footage she’s capturing. Greg is sometimes enjoyably hammy and other times annoyingly hammy, it switches as much as the character switches between fun and kooky old coot and slightly rapey.
It’s shot nicely though and made the woods look much more inviting than most other found footage films, if anything the first 50 minutes could be used as an advertisement for the tourist industry. This is one of my main issues with this and most found footage films these days however, it looks far too clean and nice. No one looks like they’ve spent days wandering around the great out doors, especially seeing as the cameras are all HD and should be picking up every imperfection 10 times more than they would have done in the VHS world.
Overall I guess it comes down to your feeling on the genre, if you really dig watching people go into heavily wooded areas and coming a cropper you’ll find something worth watching, but otherwise not so much. Writer, producer and director Michael Ramova’s gave it a shot and it should be commended that there is some good moments. He had previously only worked on short films, so this is maybe why it feels like there is a great short hidden inside a very paint by numbers feature.