Artsploitation Films // 2012 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // September 13th, 2013
On the run. Desperate to survive. Forced to kill.
Grindhouse isn't a term that has a lot of meaning anymore. Nowadays, there are lots of nods and winks at the idea of grungy movie houses, floors covered in god knows what, where you sit a few rows away from a junkie on one side and a prostitute going about his or her business on the other, an atrocity of cinema flickering on the stained screen in front. This doesn't exist anymore outside the memories and fantasies of people who want to revisit that time and place, but in a nice, sanitized, safe place where there is no danger of disease. For those people who genuinely miss the depraved original fare that appeared in these theaters, though, I present to you a Chilean film called Hidden in the Woods. It may not deliver that dead time and place, but it delivers wholeheartedly on the depravity of content that one might have seen there.
Ana and Anny (Siboney Lo, Road Kill, and Carolina Escobar) have grown up under the thumb of their abusive drug-dealing father (Daniel Antivilo), kept away from society to raise Manuel (Jose Hernandez), the deformed result of Dad's frequent late-night visits to Anny's bedroom. After two decades of horror at his hands, the cops come calling about some heroin business, allowing the girls and son to escape and sending Dad to jail. The group thinks they're safe while doing what they can to survive, but drug kingpin Uncle Costello (François Soto, Dirty Love) is owed money and drugs, is convinced that the girls know where it is, and sends his thugs out to find them. They don't know anything about heroin, but they do know a thing or two about survival at any cost.
Hidden in the Woods doesn't f around. It's as cheap, rough, and mean as anything you might have found back in the day, exploitation to its core. From the first frame to the last, there's hardly a moment where something reprehensible isn't on the screen. Like any good hardcore piece of exploitation, the movie doesn't play fair at all.
From the opening scene, director Patricio Valladares (Toro Loco) delivers the brutality in close up, forcing the audience's collective face into the abuse that is going to occur in the movie and pressing their heads into it for ninety minutes. All manner of atrocity is committed on these two women. If it's not their father, who brutalizes them during the first part of their lives, it's the drug cartel that terrorizes them the rest of the time.
Through all of this, which takes up the first two-thirds of the movie, Hidden in the Woods is pretty much an action movie, one that is apparently based on a true story. How much, I don't know, but once the kids take revenge on their attackers, it moves decidedly over towards horror when, for some reason, the whole thing about the deformed son feeding on raw meat becomes the diet of choice for the whole family and, when it comes down to brass tacks, these girls have some big appetites.
So, yeah, we've got domestic violence, drug violence, rape, incest, deformed incest baby, chainsaws, heroin, torture, and a whole lot more stuff that shows up along the way. It's pretty much a cavalcade of horrors without dressing. Aside from the kids, the entire world presented here are rapists and murderers without remorse and, in general, it's a completely misanthropic world where nobody does anything even remotely good.
So is it fun? Kind of, yes, in a gritty and unflinching sort of way. It's roughly made, but professionally made with an ending that is actually really satisfying. Nobody is going to call Hidden in the Woods great cinema and, when that large group of people who watch the movie finds it completely objectionable, I will totally understand. As a fan of this kind of thing, though, it delivers every bit of violence, sex, and depravity that this kind of exploitation promises and I can't really ask for more than that.
Artsploitation delivers an average release for Hidden in the Woods. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image looks as good as expected. It's intentionally a little bit rough, but the transfer itself is as good as one could want. Whites are bright and black levels are fairly deep. It's going for a grungy feel, so the performance is limited by that, but there is nothing to complain about. The sound is a little better, with a strong surround mix that sounds good throughout the spectrum. Dialog is clear, music is well-differentiated, and you can hear every scream, punch, and chomp stomach-churningly well.
Not so much in the way of special features, though. A twenty minute behind the scenes featurette shows production footage without comment or interviews; it's interesting, but has limited value. A short interview with the director from Montreal's Fantasia Festival provides a little more information, including the fact that he was approached by actor Michael Biehn to do an American remake, in which he would produce and star and Valladares would direct. It's in production now, so we'll see. Finally, a worthless montage of a clapboard clapping and the film's trailer round out the disc.
Hidden in the Woods isn't even close to the hardest, most uncomfortable, or most reprehensible movies I've ever seen, but it does heavily feature content that will repulse a good portion of regular people out there. I can't say that I blame them, but the movie does deliver on its promise of good old fashioned, hard-boiled exploitation. Violence, sex, drug use, cannibalism, what more do you want?
Guilty, but that's sort of the point.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Artsploitation Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
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