2020 Film Review: Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight
Updated: Jan 26
Plot Synopsis: A group of technology-dependent teenagers goes to offline camp and faces a deadly danger lurking in the woods.
Being hailed as the first Polish slasher film, director Bartosz M. Kowalski looks to bring the 80’s style horror film to his native homeland. Horror has been neglected for too long in Polish cinema, with the genre failing to get off the ground in terms of the European country producing their own content.
With the usual tropes in a contemporary setting, Kowalski manages to create an enjoyable horror that is a good first step for Polish makers to expand on, although it doesn't reinvent the wheel.
Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight immediately thrusts you into the mystery with it soon establishing its camp setting. The kids unfortunate to be shipped away to the Polish wilderness: technology infatuated teens on a reform to enjoy time away from screens. 5 teens and a guide embark into the wilderness for some peacefulness which is soon plagued by a gruesome pair of twins. Some nasty looking practical effects look truly gruesome and off-putting, giving the creatures an intimidating and unsettling appearance. The use of practical effects is excellent as there is plenty of gorey moments that look incredibly brutal without looking too polished. The film's presentation as a whole is also to be praised, with excellent cinematography and camerawork allowing this homage to stand out a bit more than some of the hordes of copycat slashers that look to shock rather than showcase a good amount of skill.
The influence of 80’s horror is easily spotted within the films iconography but even goes further to replicating certain scenes. It’s clear to see the influence from the likes of Friday the 13th and the works of John Carpenter in this 100 odd minute feature. There’s also space for the usual tropes with sex leading to death, fake outs and the final girl, a badass heroine portrayed by Julia Wieniawa. Wieniawa appears to be a massive star in Polish culture just now with many being shocked at her following up a stint on Poland's Dancing With The Stars with a showing as a final girl in a squeamish woodland horror. She is fantastic throughout as the likeable Zosia, giving the film a character to root for despite lacking a bit of depth.
Kowalski’s film flirts with ideas of bringing deeper meanings or social commentary to his film, most notably in the form of LGBT issues and the Catholic Church. With all that is going on in Poland right regarding civil rights for LGBT people, it would have been extremely timely to delve into this worrying problem within Poland. Unfortunately, there isn’t an abundance of depth within this and is merely used as a short conversation topic. Perhaps it may have been deemed to controversial in Poland to go as far as Kowalski wanted to but it's effect comes off weak due to this. With Kowalski describing this film as an experiment, perhaps this is a sign of what he would like to focus on in future projects which would definitely bring a chilling experience.
For a first attempt at a style of film that has gone largely untouched within a country’s catalogue of cinema, Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight is a fine starting point. Sure, the film doesn’t offer an awful lot of complete originality but for horror fans this will definitely suffice. There are shocking kills with enough character to get by with, making this film an easy and enjoyable watch. If Kowalski’s intentions with this feature were to open up the genre to the eyes of producers and filmmakers within Poland, he has most definitely succeeded and left an imprint that could be the biggest impact that a director could possibly want.