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Starring Dennis Baker, Nick Danger, Cortney Palm
by Dennis Baker
The other night, after getting home from seeing Final Destination 3 (you know a film franchise is dead in the water when a sequel feels more like a parody of the series), I decided to catch up on a screener that I'd been putting off for way too long. I was actually debating whether or not to do so because, frankly, I was feeling extremely sick to my stomach. I don't know what the folks at the Cinemark put in that alleged "butter" they sprayed on my popcorn, but it might as well have been a hybrid of Ex-Lax and Drano given the number it was doing on my insides. Extremely gassy and with the wickedest case of diarrhea I've had in ages, I felt terrible, barely lucid at times, but not bad enough to just climb into bed and try to sleep it off while at the same time not really feeling up to doing much of anything. So after downing a quarter of a bottle of Mylanta and saying a prayer for bowels, I decided to finally take in a screening of The Woodland Haunting 2.
Now I fully understood that The Woodland Haunting 2 was meant to be a spoof. As I understand it, the first Woodland Haunting was actually just a 25-minute short the filmmaker made chronicling some supernatural event involving a spectral child that he and his family experienced, the short having gone on to gather something of a cult following. I'm assuming that the events of The Woodland Haunting 2 are not based on actual experiences in the life of writer/director Dennis Baker; otherwise, I strongly suggest he seek immediate therapy.
By now I know most of you reading this are waiting to know what The Woodland Haunting 2 is all about. I'd be more than happy to tell you if I had any friggin' idea. This is one of the strangest things I've ever seen in my life. I'll be honest with you; I don't have one damn clue what this movie was really all about. The film's main character is named Denton Rose, a ghost hunting Elvis impersonator played by Baker looking like a potential background singer for Vince Vance & the Valiants. He's in the hospital being interviewed on videotape about his hair-raising experience with the Woodland haunting. The story is then told in a combination of flashback and documentary style. It's amazing how the movie has a narrative, and yet the events that unfold often border on incoherent, occasionally jumping around at random to pick up where a previous random sequence occurred. It sort of makes sense and it doesn't, and that just makes the experience all the weirder.
What's it all about again? Well, there's a house with a ghostly boy and girl that don't seem particularly friendly. There's this woman named Sheila that lives in the haunted house having to deal with the spirits, along the way invoking incantations from an occult spell book and getting attacked by a possessed Betty Boop doll. There's the Denton Rose character and his partner in ghost hunting driving around in a hearse. There's an incident with a pizza delivery man who shows up at Sheila's haunted house only to end up getting sucked into another dimension. There's a subplot involving two young women that end up at Sheila's haunted house after their car breaks down. There's a running gag about the blurry image of Bigfoot quickly zipping across the road. There are randomly inserted shots of a UFO whizzing through space. There's...There's so very much strangeness going on.
Adding to the strangeness is writer/director/producer Dennis Baker's choice to play multiple characters. I didn't know initially but figured it out when I kept noticing that another character looked an awful lot like the dude in the Elvis get-up. The Denton Rose character is the highlight of the movie although all he really does is ramble on a lot like a total loon. I went over to the film's website after watching it only to learn that Baker also played the role of Sheila. I must commend him on this one because it never dawned on me it was man in drag. I just assumed it was a really homely looking woman playing the part, possibly a friend or family member. Hey, ugly women in micro-budget films are nothing new.
Rest assured this is a micro-budget movie. The special effects consisting of one-dimensional ghostly figures and green screen backdrops in place of actual sets are all very much rough around the edges. This might be considered a negative by most, but it only serves to make the film all the more surreal.
I can't really say The Woodland Haunting 2 is a good movie nor can I call it a bad one. I can't really say I fully enjoyed it, but I'd be lying if I said watching it wasn't quite the experience. For better and worse, I've never seen anything quite like it and doubt you have either. It's mesmerizing and yet aggravating. Despite being billed as a comedy, I only chuckled once or twice. The Woodland Haunting 2 is constantly introducing oddball situations and characters into what otherwise would be a tepid ghost story, which, combined with the non-linear storytelling, bizarre directing choices, use of computer graphics, and general overall weirdness (unless I lost my mind, the movie even has two sets of opening credits too), makes it almost indescribably bizarre. Of course, my reaction might also have been in part due to my being under the weather at the time. All I know is that when it was over after only 65 minutes, I was a somewhat relieved and kinda disappointed because it ended as perplexingly as it had begun and remained throughout.
The Woodland Haunting 2 was produced by a company called Mindsplinter Films; a fitting name as by the time it's over your mind will probably feel like it's in splinters. Whether or not that's a good or bad thing is something the individual viewers of the film will have to decide for themselves.
Now if you'll excuse me, I really need to go lie down.
2 1/2 STARS