Just in time for Halloween came the debut horror short film “The Woods” from up-and-coming YouTube channel Sugar Pine 7.
Just seven months ago former SourceFed host Steven Suptic set out to start a new solo career on YouTube with his friends James Deangelis and Clayton “Cib” James. In that time they have seen impressive growth and popularity and are currently sitting at almost 1.1 million subscribers. Their vision was to innovate on the popular “vlog” format and try to make it something more than just talking to a camera and telling the audience about your day.
Over the course of those seven months, they have hired some new employees to help film, write and edit these “vlogs.” Additionally, in an attempt to expand their scope and resources, they were acquired by internet entertainment behemoth Rooster Teeth in May of this year. This rapid growth was what led to the recent production and release of their debut short film “The Woods” so soon in their company’s life.
“The Woods” is a departure from the group’s usual style of improvisational comedy and wacky antics, instead setting out to tell a cohesive, dark but fun and cheesy horror story. In a classic horror scenario, six close friends hit the road to spend the weekend at Steve’s (Steven Suptic) childhood cabin only to find out they are being hunted by a vicious monster. Their short stay sees Elliott (Elliott Morgan) and his girlfriend, Mimi (Mimi Torres), bickering throughout the weekend while the others, James (James Deangelis), Cib (Cib James) and Devin (Devin Parker) just try to make the most of their weekend. Everything was going well until a noise complaint and the arrival of an unexpected guest turn their weekend in the woods into a fight for survival.
For Sugar Pine’s first venture into both horror and short films in general, “The Woods” shows a lot of promise. Director John Redlinger and Director of photography Naeem Munaf work well together in forming the strong visuals. These visuals are undoubtedly one of the most strikingly professional aspects of the vignette. They help to establish the playful yet sinister tone with the help of the excellent editing and soundtrack, featuring songs from Matt Duncan, Plan B and The Black Keys.
The soundtrack shifts with the tone of the rest of the film in a way that enhances the overall experience. It is also accompanied by an eerie score courtesy of Shahruz Moshtael, that helps solidify that tone. The music choices evoke a sense of adventure in the first half of the story while bringing to life the more unnerving atmosphere of the latter half, when the monster arrives.
I was particularly impressed by the effects used in the creation of the creature, played by Alan Maxson, who appears in short bursts but manages to still be an intimidating force. The intentionally cheesy violence and blood effects were also enjoyable and added a certain B-movie charm to the film.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the performances by Parker, Deangelis and Morgan, all of whom show a lot of potential. For the most part, the writing was solid but some aspects of the story felt somewhat forced and underdeveloped as a result of the time allotted to them. I enjoyed the dynamic between Elliott and Mimi, though, and thought that they did a good job bringing that relationship to life.
Some of the performances and pacing felt a bit off and unsatisfying, however. Not that any of the performances were outright poor, and it does have to be considered that these are untrained actors, but some performances were weaker than others. In terms of pacing, characters would die without much build-up or consequence and as a result, their deaths felt somewhat flat. This could be just a natural result of the short 22-minute run-time, but the overall product suffered as a result. The final sequence of the survivors’ attempted escape was the most intense and gripping part of the entire short film and left a positive impression on me as the credits began to roll.
Though it wasn’t perfect, “The Woods” showed a lot of potential from the team over at Sugar Pine 7 and I would highly recommend keeping an eye on them and seeing where they are headed in the future. I know that I definitely will be.