Director Adam Reider has set up a World where things may or may not be what they seem. The film stars Ryan Blakely as William, a man who lives cut off from the world around him. He lives deep in the forest in a rundown trailer. His only source of sustenance is a river (nearby) and living off his ability to gather greenery and catch nearby animals such as rabbits and fish. One day while out by the lake he hears the screams of pain from a woman. He goes towards where the sound rang out and finds the young woman named Emily (Jenny Raven) unconscious. Not knowing what to do he brings her back to his living quarters. Emily awakes in a strange place and is initially suspicious of William’s intentions towards her. Making things worse is the fact that William doesn’t really conversate much at all and seems tormented by his own demons. After William nurses Emily back to health he agrees to help her get out of the forest and back to civilization. The pair’s personalities clash as they are from very different worlds. Emily makes an unnerving discovery within an old shack just a bit behind William’s living quarters, things then get hellishly suspenseful from this point on.
This Canadian feature film has many layers to unpack, it’s bleak, unforgiving and perplexing at times, but it also demands the viewer’s full attention. This isn’t something to throw on in the background while checking a news site on your cellphone. Woodland Grey is almost like viewing a dream, surrealist at its core, but also a place where anything is possible and rules don’t apply.
Watching the interaction of Ryan Blakely (William) and Jenny Raven (Emily) on screen is worth the price of admission alone. They both masterfully bring their characters to life in full of tension-fueled emotion. The forest is also a character of its own. From what I gather the crew shot the film during some not-so-ideal weather conditions, which also adds to the uneasiness of each character onscreen.
Writers Adam Reider and Jesse Toufexis create a mystery to unpack, but will the answers lead to more questions and will the answers be different for every viewer. This is one of those horror films that only come around once or twice a decade, a hell of a ride and one that will have viewers get into many heated discussions. Everyone in the sound department deserves healthy applause as the film’s tension twists and turns with the gloomy noises heard throughout. Along with this Cinematographer, Graham Guertin Santerre uses the surroundings expertly. The closed-in feeling and never-ending forest feel like characters unto themselves (as mentioned before).
Canada’s Art Hindle also has a role in the film and any film with Art Hindle is a must-watch for me. Not to give too much away, but his character be it short and sweet is a great addition to the film. One more actress worth mentioning is Chelsea Goldwater. She also shines on screen and also is a great addition to the cast (to say too much more would give too much away).
This film is a very slow burn, but not a burn without lasting effects. Woodland Grey isn’t going to be everyone’s fair, but for those who delve into the forest, the film will linger within you for years to come (in a good way). This independent film forges new territory that suspense seekers will thoroughly enjoy.
I had a chance to sit down with Director Adam Reider and ask a few burning questions I had after viewing the film. Below is a snippet of our conversation:
Who do you consider your cinematic hero (it can be an actor, director or anything else within the industry)
AR: I’m a huge Stanley Kubrick fan. I don’t particularly like everything he has made but I love HOW he made them. I look up to him as a master of process, technicality and vision. I also think he was a bit of an enigma which possibly contributes to my admiration of him.
What was it like to work with Canadian actor/director Art Hindle?
AR: Art is the best! When he first came on board we had really great conversations about ideas he had that were really helpful. Ideas about his character and the script and even historical details that made it into the film. On set he’s so much fun. He’s a man with a million captivating stories to tell, so much so that sometimes we had to be reminded to get back to work instead of listening to him. He would be joking around and then I call to action and he seamlessly slips into character. It was incredible and mesmerizing to watch.
I heard that during shooting the cast and crew were working during harsh elements (snow/rain/freezing rain and wind) Do you think this translated to more suspense on screen?
AR: For sure! Some of the weather required major rewrites for the script, especially where there was unplanned snow. All the elements that you see on camera just happened in real life so we had to run with it and in the end, It added mood and tone to the film for sure. I think it helped reinforce the sense that this forest is not a place where these characters want to be. So in the end, it sucked being freezing and cold and wet but it paid off on the screen.
Woodland Grey is a very surreal film experience. After viewing the film many viewers may come to different conclusions at the climax of the film. Was this a conscious effort or can the film have many different endings
without any of them being wrong or right?
AR: From the beginning, Jesse and I wanted the ending to be ambiguous enough that people can come to their own conclusions but we both know what’s up. For us, as we were writing, there was a clear right and wrong. We knew what the rules of the forest were and we outlined the film so we would know where we were going and so that we could stay consistent. We chose not to put all of that on the screen. I think the film works being ambiguous and there is no right and wrong but I can tell you the vast majority of people who approach me after with their theory about what happens are really close if not bang on to what Jesse and I had in mind. Audiences are way smart and they are getting it so that’s really great.
Woodland Grey just screened at the Blood in the Snow Festival in Toronto. How was that experience?
AR: It was so wonderful! It was extremely important for me to have Woodland Grey premiere in person, in a theatre. I even turned down offers to premiere at other festivals because they were online so when Blood In The Snow announced they were (partially) in person, I jumped at the opportunity. People at the premiere seemed to genuinely dig Woodland Grey which feels really good. I’m proud of the film and I was really happy to share this moment with some of the cast and crew. It was so special to have them on stage with me and we could all have this moment together. The festival itself is super fun, well organized and well-curated. Their short programs were bonkers! One of the best short programs I’ve ever seen was at Blood In The Snow.
Is there a chance future projects may see you lend your comedy skills and musical talents to them ?
AR: Yes for sure. I’ve thought a lot about scoring my own films or at least putting some of my music into a film. The music I make has a lot of cinematic elements to it. As far as comedy goes, I have a pretty dark sense of humour so you’ll find that in future films of mine for sure.
Adam Reider official Instagram
Spectropia Pictures Website
Woodland Grey FaceBook
– Blood in the Snow – Toronto (World Premier) – November
– Another Hole In The Head – San Francisco – December
– Le Festival du Film du Fantasme – Paris – June