Night #1
2:00 AM
Rootwood Forest

“There’s a very strange noise coming from the trailer.”

Suspenseful music underscores the scene as Jess (Elissa Dowling) slowly investigates the dark surroundings of the small RV. Her camera documents the shadowy cabin. She turns to realize the noise is coming from behind a closed door. She slowly reaches out and turns the doorknob. The door opens and…

Will (Tyler Gallant) is sitting inside. He screams! She closes the door. Jess looks into her camera and reports.

“My mistake. It turns out it was Will just taking a dump.”

Three friends set out into the woods to document the strange story of the Rootwood Forest. Two of them, Jess and Will, run a successful podcast called The Spooky Hour that investigates supernatural lore. An eager producer, played by Felissa Rose, invites them to help her create a documentary on the legend of the Wooden Devil. They ask a third friend Erin, played by Sarah French, to come along with them as they head out into the woods in a small camper.

Does this sound familiar?

Three friends are filming a documentary about a supernatural creature. A creepy structure in the woods, covered with disturbing imagery. Names of the previously missing written in blood. A tree with a hangman’s noose. Weird howling at night.

ROOTWOOD benefits and suffers from films that have come before. Unfortunately, many audiences will dismiss this as another found footage rip off. But, this really isn’t a found footage film.

The positive is the story escalates the familiar genre with solid performances and gives us a very real creature as opposed to the unseen.

The three principal actors create characters that feel like they’re real friends and do a commendable job with some situations and dialogue that feels unnatural.

The negative is there are some leaps of logic in the script that distract from the story. A major character sees a winged creature and leaves the confines of the RV to go and find rideshare. Cellphones work in the deep woods, but no one calls for help.

The mix of what is being documented and what is the narrative film is also confusing. The cinematography never really makes the woods effectively spooky or creates the atmosphere that could have pushed this over the edge. The film is also slow to build in horror.

But, in the final twenty minutes, things escalate very quickly and subjects the viewer to a very realistic portrayal of terror and insanity. In the end, the acting, the old school creature, and the surprises make ROOTWOOD a trip to the woods worth taking. ROOTWOOD is now available on DVD and Digital.

J. Michael Roddy
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