Portland Horror Film Festival Short Review: THE GIFT OF THE WOODS (2017)

A selection of the Portland Horror Film Festival, I had the pleasure to watch a super short form film that blends a detailed storybook style with ranging influences of Roald Dahl, Tim Burton, 9, and early Disney in THE GIFT OF THE WOODS from Something’s Awry Productions. Written by Kurtis Theorin and Directed by Kris Theorin, THE GIFT OF THE WOODS is the longest animated short to date by this VFX company.

The narrative focuses on a very young girl who journeys into the woods and comes across a strange rag doll sitting on a stump alone. Taking possession of it, the girl brings the doll home. Her frightened father realizes the mistake she has made and demands that she return it back to the stump that she found it on deep in the woods. Upon returning the doll to the forest, she is confronted mere steps from the stump by a creature and the doll’s protector. Will she return home? What does the monster want? We find out in THE GIFT OF THE WOODS.

Macabre, heartfelt and mysterious, this less than four-minute short tells a very true tale we can all understand. From the talented and dark minds at Something’s Awry ProductionsTHE GIFT OF THE WOODS is a love letter to storybook magic and a child’s innocence that faces the things that go bump in the night. Feeling like a children’s picture book come to life, THE GIFT OF THE WOODS offers so much for viewers of any age. Layered with emotion and connecting themes, Kurtis and Kris show a true heart through art and care. Creating paper cut out style characters that frighten at times (the jagged movement, metallic teeth, a spider type monster) and feel human at other (the father and daughter), the animation, movements and reactions reflect the range of emotions and a humanity without any words ever being uttered by any character. The emotion and dialogue is pronounced by a ranging score that takes the viewer from the deep dark to a safe home to the danger of loss to arms of a loving parent.

Creating a straight forward, no excess, timeless tale, the animation sits against a creepy, noir style canvas feeling like a charcoal drawing with a dark heart. With a different feel then most of the horror short form films that I watch, THE GIFT OF THE WOODS entertains as well as runs the emotional range and for anyone who has ever loved something so dearly and feared so much of losing it, this short will frighten, tug and melt your heart. This is one of many great short and artistic projects from Something’s Awry Productions. Check out their Vimeo for their various films, artistic expressions and more with Legos, animation, live action and such.

Jay Kay
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