HIDDEN IN THE WOODS Movie Review: Incest, Gore And Cannibalism Are Just The Beginning

Brian is impressed by the sheer bravado of this movie's loathsome content. 

About halfway through Hidden In The Woods (Chilean title: En las afueras de la ciudad), I began to wonder if writer/director Patricio Valladares was hoping that the Video Nasties list would be resurrected so that his film could be included, perhaps listed at the top if they were to be ranked by unpleasantness. Indeed, the film's IMDb "plot keywords" page reads like a checklist of all the things that would get a title banned in the UK back in the early 80s: "rape", "incest" (and, separately, "incest rape"), "cannibalism", "chainsaw murder", "misogynist"... if it's the sort of thing a filmmaker would have had to have edited out of his film in order to get it past those loons, chances are Valladares features it twice in his film.

The plot, such as it is, concerns a pair of sisters who live in the middle of the woods with their drug runner father. One night (we are to assume it's not the first), he rapes one of them, leaving her pregnant with an inbred baby that he locks up and feeds like a prisoner. 12 years later, he's raping his other daughter when the cops show up for something else, and when he turns his focus (and chainsaw) on them, the sisters free their brother (and/or son/nephew) and escape. However, the father manages to kill both cops, and despite a serious injury, chases after them.

Some movies might stop there with regards to the narrative, allowing the rest to unfold as a long chase scene, but I've barely even gotten started. Enough time goes by that one sister becomes a prostitute in order to buy food for the others, some characters turn out to be cannibals, and their uncle wants to know where their father (who has two movies' worth of his own adventures in a B story) has hidden the drugs he was holding, and thus dispatches some goons to track down the sisters and beat (or worse) the location out of them. Oh and then there's a john who begins to fall in love with Ana (the sister who became a prostitute), some hikers who plan to rob our heroines... if a goddamn dinosaur showed up I wouldn't have been surprised.

So on a narrative level it's hardly the tightest movie ever made; characters routinely show up just to be killed and/or leer at the girls (seriously, every single male character in the film except for their mutant brother either offers them sex or takes it by force), and most events just occur out of nowhere. Occasionally we get a flashback to explain why something is happening, but more often than not it seems like an afterthought, and it's not always the case - the cannibalism in particular is just completely out of left field, and even their post-munch explanation ("we swore we wouldn't do that again!") doesn't really make it any more coherent. Likewise, it's not going to help convince anyone that digital over film is the way to go - the images are often as ugly as what's occurring in them, and I doubt that was the intention.

However, I couldn't help but sort of admire the gusto of the thing, not unlike how I can appreciate Cannibal Holocaust or Last House On The Left. Neither are movies I care to revisit very often, if at all, but there's a je ne sais quoi to the whole affair that kept me engaged, even impressed. The rape scenes are thankfully not as explicit as the ones in those other films (or I Spit On Your Grave, another one that I can nod an approval and then hopefully never have to watch again), and Valladares is much more interested in showing off his gory prosthetic works when these scumbags are dispatched. Some scenes are unfortunately "improved" with digital blood, but for the most part he sticks to the old-school way, and the finale is an Inside-level bloodbath with pretty much everyone drenched in Caro.

But seriously, couldn't there be ONE somewhat sympathetic male character? The aforementioned john who starts to fall for Ana seems like he might be, but he's cheating on his spouse and also practically jumps at the chance to give up their location to the shady drug dealers that come around looking for them. And he's still the best; runner up would probably be the guy who is arguing on the phone with his wife over some sort of affair he's been having, sees Ana digging through trash for food, and thus does what anyone would do - hangs up on his wife and nobly offers to give the filthy, trash-eating woman some money for a blow job (this is what kicks off her prostitution life). After a while, their rapist father almost starts to resemble the movie's hero, because he at least seems to want to keep them from running afoul of his brother.

Long story short, you have to have the stomach for this sort of thing, and it's hardly the best example of an exploitation movie to boot. Still, it's not like there's a glut of such fare being made these days, and I'll take anything over another found footage chore. The DVD from Artsploitation has some minor bonus features (including Valladares' interview from the 2012 Fantasia festival, where he signed up to remake the film in English with Michael Biehn as the father), nothing essential. I would have preferred the disc space and/or resources went to a dub track or at least better subtitles; not only do they have some odd translations, but sometimes they're just missing entirely - characters will be talking but there won't be anything on screen to inform us English speaking jerks what they're saying. Then again, it's probably just something along the lines of "Fuck you, bitch!" so it's probably not a real loss. For grindhouse aficionados only!