Writer/director Mark Sheridan’s Irish feature Crone Wood (2016) combines folk horror elements with stuck-in-the-woods fright-fare basics. The result is an interesting effort that doesn’t cover a lot of new ground, but does offer an entertaining 86-minute ride.
The film is shot in a cinéma vérité style with multiple handheld cameras. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I draw a line between this style of filming, in which the footage is not purported to be found after a certain, usually horrific or mysterious, incident occurs, and found footage films, which do state that intent from the beginning, so I won’t call Crone Wood a found footage film, though others will. Most of the filming is done by Danny (Ed Murphy), a twentysomething man who is on an extended first date with Hailey (Elva Trill). Danny doesn’t seem to be much of a ladies’ man, making some socially awkward (to put it mildly) mistakes and admitting to Hailey at one point that she is out of his league, but the two get on well enough that Hailey asks Danny to join her on a sudden camping trip to keep the date going. Danny agrees, and the two head off to the titular area, which was given its name because of its alleged supernatural history.
Despite Danny’s shortcomings, both of the main characters are likeable enough, and Murphy and Trill are both solid in their lead roles, having good chemistry together. Their characters’ dialogue rings fairly true, which is another point in the favor of Crone Wood. The film wouldn’t be much of a horror movie if the pair didn’t make some questionable choices during their excursion, and they do indeed, such as exploring a spooky, seemingly abandoned building and looking for help later on by entering a house without permission.
Rather than saving suspense or scares until the final minutes, Sheridan starts the eerie business earlier on, slowly but steadily ratcheting things up until the film’s whopper of a third act. Though a few things are telegraphed in advance, the final act holds enough weirdness and dread to look past that.
Folk horror aficionados and fans of handheld camera horror — found footage or not — should find plenty to like about Crone Wood. It’s a nifty low-budget creepfest, with impressive writing and direction from Sheridan, who is aided well by his cast’s sound performances.
Crone Wood, from Danse Macabre, will be available on VOD and DVD in the U.K. and Ireland from February 1st.(3 / 5)