Frightfest has had its fair share of controversy in the past, most notably when A Serbian Film was pulled after Westminster Council ruled it couldn’t be shown in an uncut form. This year’s near-the-mark equivalent was predicted to be Patricio Valladares’ Hidden in the Woods, an exploitation film from Chile brimming with incest, gore and cleavage close-ups. Unfortunately for everyone at the screening, that prediction was way off the mark.
The film opens with Felipe, a drug dealer, who murders his wife before turning his attention to his two daughters, Ana and Anny. He submits them to years of violence and sexual abuse which results in both a child with his eldest and the slimming of his chances at winning Chilean Father of the Year. Raising his daughters and mentally unhinged son in isolation, the cycle only stops when the cops arrive and, although disposing of them with a chainsaw, he is arrested.
As the first 10 minutes blazed through the crazed childhood of the girls in a series of choppy moments punctured by fades to black, Hidden in the Woods called to mind the unique style of Dominic Murphy’s fantastic White Lightnin’ and the first moment is incest is deeply unsettling, helped out by the always dependable creep-factor of a china doll.
Unfortunately, both this early style and promise soon sink under a wave of monotony when drug lord Uncle Costello sends a pack of thugs to collect a stash hidden in the very cabin that the abused trio have taken refuge.
Whilst it may have the same grimy aesthetics of the American grindhouse of the 1970s, Hidden in the Woods becomes dull patches of lechery tied together by shoddily directed violence featuring characters whose prime functions appear to be screaming and bleeding if female, and sweating and grunting if male. Sometimes a male will bleed and a female will grunt and, well, that’s about as surprising as it gets.
It has been said that the iconic shower scene from Psycho captured the essence of Alfred Hitchcock’s cinema. A montage of fellatio in Hidden in the Woods does the same for Valladares. He further didn’t help his cause when, attempting to remember the name of one of his actresses in a Q&A, he described her as ‘the one with the tits.’
Too schlocky to ever to be shocking, too leery to be liked, it’s a genuine wonder as to why the film is getting a US remake starring Michael Biehn and once again helmed by Valladares.
Hidden in The Woods should stay exactly that.