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RNRF X Salem Horror Fest: “Official Selection”, Brightwood

From the trailer, we pegged Dane Elcar’s Brightwood as Open Water meets Friday The 13th and we’ve never been more psyched to be pretty much entirely wrong in our initial assumption. Sure, Brightwood takes place in a solitary wooded location with an annoying couple at its’ center (We’ll get to that) but unlike that Indie shark flick at least, as you get deeper into the film you’ll find that you actually don’t want to root for the shark/antagonist to devour your main characters here after all.

Jen (Dana Berger) and Dan (Max Woertendyke) have been together “a stupid amount of time” and it shows. Not in a cutesy we-finish-each-others-sentences kind of way but more of a general fatigue that’s filled with resentment, bitterness, and tension. That’s painfully apparent with the first shot of Jen starting her daily jog with Dan lagging way behind while attempting to have a conversation about their relationship… and about him getting maybe a little too drunk and touchy-feely with some of Jen’s co-workers at a work party the previous night. Good times, right?

Jen seems to be over all of it. Dan seems like an asshat. And you, dear viewer, truly believe that because they’re written so well by Elcar and also because Berger and Woertendyke bring these characters to life in such a nuanced way. You kinda want to root for them even as Jen decides to just do four laps around the local pond before heading in as Dan, like a puppy, follows. Then it starts to get weird. Because after some more arguing, they both separately experience some sort of ringing in their heads. And then the path around the pond seems to disappear. And there seems to be no escape from this wooded area now. And they may or may not be alone. And we may or may not wanna tell you EVERYTHING that’s about to happen but we’ll refrain because it’s so much fun to watch it all unfold.

Will this experience bring them closer together or drive a bigger wedge between them? Why is Jen uttering sweet nothings like “I think about stabbing you in the neck all the time” and “I’ve allowed you to have sex with me enough times that you have to be prepared to die for me” to Dan so perfect despite their situation? Will they even get out???

Adding to the ambiance is Elcar’s cinematography which definitely echoes some Camp Crystal Lake vibes with the long shots of forest across the pond in addition to some more personal vantage points with a nice POV view from time to time to increase the sense of impending dread. Speaking of dread, the music by Jason Cook along with the sound design by Elcar and Joey Zampella (Life Of Agony) is hypnotic and percussive as it captures all those sentiments just as perfectly with a feeling of being isolated and closed off one moment and then becoming more off putting as the story continues.

Brightwood from Noble Gas/Pond Pictures Production just made its’ debut at last month’s Salem Horror Fest and is still making the rounds on the festival circuit. For the latest on Brightwood, head here.

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