Rootwood (2018) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Rootwood (2018) Review

Horrorific content by jessicagomez on March 29th, 2020 | Movie Review | Demon, Hell, Wilderness, Urban Legend

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It’s about filmmakers who find themselves hunted by the Wooden Devil while creating a documentary about missing persons in a secluded forest.

Rootwood was directed by Marcel Walz (who also directed Blood Feast) and stars Tyler Gallant (from Alpha Wolf), Elissa Dowling (from Don't Kill It), Felissa Rose (from Sleepaway Camp, Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor, Victor Crowley, Family Possessions, Ugly Sweater Party, No Solicitors, Camp Dread) and Sarah French.

Welcome to the darkest place on earth

Paranormal podcasters Jessica and Will are approached by a Hollywood producer to investigate and film their findings surrounding the urban legend of the Wooden Devil. A number of people have gone missing in the woods - though we get no background on who, or the circumstances of their disappearances - and according to this producer, the Wooden Devil is to blame. Something’s off about the evocative Laura (Felissa Rose) and her eager studio entourage, but seeking notoriety, Will is eager to go for it, and he convinces Jessica to join him. From there, a film within a film is born, and the rest of the scenes shutter in and out of found footage.

We learn very little about the legend of the Wooden Devil; it’s barely mentioned, save for a story Will tells his fellow filmmakers which grazes over the folklore, and we don’t see them conducting any research. More background on both the lore and the victims would have filled out the plot and supplied a bigger scare factor. Much time was spent on Jessica’s distaste for her compadre’s questionable motives and actions, but it never lent a hand to the bigger picture.

Elissa Dowling has been making a name for herself in horror in films like Girl on the Third Floor and We Are Still Here, and she wavers between solid and overacting. However, there is no saving grace for Gallant or French. The poor reactions and lingering camera time take the viewer out of the moment. Rose is awarded the most interesting role of the film, though she’s only involved in two scenes - and even her spot could have been more nuanced. The underlying theme of Hollywood greed is obvious and over-the-top.

We were welcomed with a jarring and promising opening scene, where Jessica is found screaming looking for her friend - but the rest of the film never quite measures up, even with some truly gorgeous cinematic shots. What could have been a really interesting story falls prey to bad cliches, and never quite finds its footing between creature feature and serial killer horror. The most frightening scenes are too similar to The Blair Witch Project to dismiss as merely homage. If you can’t take inspiration without replication, don’t do it.

Worth Watching?

No. Save for the ending and a sprinkling of The Forest, it bears close resemblance to Blair Witch. If you’re a Blair Witch fan, don’t assume that it’ll help you enjoy; you’ll likely find yourself pissed off at the number of scenes that have been outright copied.

The ending isn’t as much of a twist as it’s intended to be. It’s clear from the get-go where this documentary crew is headed, and let’s just say it’s not to The Oscars.

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