Upon reading that Sony Pictures have made the decision to remake The Craft, my first reaction was one of horror. Added to this was the news that a newcomer, Leigh Janiak, was slated to direct this new version of the cult hit. Reading up on the proposed director it appears that she may be roughly 12 years old and her only prior credit in the “big chair” was on the 2014 film Honeymoon.
Curious, I checked out the title via IMDb, where the site helpfully informed me that the film was available on Netflix. Reopening my membership amid hamburger wrappers and quickly refilling my coffee cup, I settled down to watch a film that impressed me no end. It could have been titled “If You Go Into the Woods Tonight” with a warped “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” playing in the background.
The story of two young people, both delightfully quirky yet annoyingly cute in their new marriage, who are on their honeymoon, hence the title of the film. The new couple learn that heading back to the lakeside vacation home from the girl’s childhood for the celebration of their new life together is the biggest mistake ever.
Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) are the newlywed couple who are nauseatingly in love at the start of the film. It takes Janiak a good 16 minutes to show the audience just how much these two are in tune with one another. While their interaction is a bit on the sickly side, “My Honeybee,” he whispers, “Buzzzz” she replies, putting two fingers on his pursed lips, it does show just why these two are perfect for one another.
Paul and Bea decide to head down to the local restaurant where they find a man breaking lamps and yelling that they are closed. The unhappy owner, Will (played by Ben Huber), then recognizes Bea who he refers to as Trixie and it turns out that they were childhood friends. Will’s wife Annie (Hanna Brown) comes out and tells the couple that they need to leave. Annie does not look well and the disturbed newlyweds leave.
Later, Paul wakes up alone and goes in search of his missing wife. As he stumbles around the dark property surrounding the house and the lake, he comes upon a silent Bea standing motionless in the dark. She is naked and when he touches his wife, she screams.
From this moment on, the film and the couple change. A slow build up of odd events and strange looking “bites” on the inside of Bea’s thighs are just the start of the newlyweds problems. Janiak proves to be a master at allowing the initial breakdown to seem like the jittery nerves of any new couple. She then expertly starts piling on the pressure and the mystery.
At first, the viewer suspects that this could be a “Straw Dogs” type scenario, where heading to the wife’s old stomping grounds opens up all sort of inbred problems. As the film progresses, however, this turns out to be a false lead and as the suspense and fear increase, things turn out to be much worse than a bunch of village idiots attacking the new guy in the local girl’s life
Certainly Janiak looks too young to drive on her own, but in terms of filmmaking, she impresses. Leigh looks more than capable of directing another take on the original The Craft although there is the question of just who will take the roles of these teen witch wannabes.
The Craft (1996) had a brilliant cast, Neve Campbell, Robin Tunny, Fairuza Balk and Rachel True and these ladies will be hard to replace. Especially Balk who knocked her part out of the park. Despite my initial misgivings about the idea of remaking one of my favorite films, I believe that Sony have picked the right person to helm the new Craft film.
If you have not seen Honeymoon, check it out on Netflix. This “If You Go Into the Woods Tonight” will make you jump and think. A great little film, shot for an estimated $1 million, that shows real talent and is a great little cautionary tale about staying in the woods, in a house, by a lake, with no one else around….
Leigh Janiak’s first horror film earns a full 4 out of 5 stars for entertainment value and plot. My advice? Watch it.