Directed by Patricio Valladares
Apparently based on true events, Chilean shocker Hidden in the Woods is a thoroughly repugnant, and equally worthless, overload of exploitative nonsense.
Tormented sisters Ana (Lo) and Anny (Escobar) lead a particularly tortured existence: As young girls, their intimidating, domineering father (Antivilo) murders their unfaithful mother and sets about a campaign of repeated abuse and rape of his daughters. The result of this is Manuel, a baby whose forced birth into a bucket and subsequent upbringing stashed away in a shed and fed on raw meat sees him become a physically disfigured and mentally retarded family secret.
Years later, when daddy attempts to rape the younger sister yet again, the girls manage to get out a call for help, prompting the arrival of two police officers whom their aggressive papa summarily dispatches with the use of a chainsaw. As the girls escape into the woods with Manuel, Father heads off to meet with some of his drug dealer contacts (he makes a living by stashing drugs for local kingpin, Costello), only to have a psychotic break at a bus station. There, he commits multiple murder and ends up locked away in the local prison.
Attempting to survive on their own, the girls and Manuel set up shop at a small cabin in the woods, with the older sister making enough money to get by via providing low-cost blowjobs to all manner of scumbag at the nearest towns. Of course, Costello wants his drugs, and so he dispatches his thugs to find the girls and extract the information on their father’s stash. Meanwhile father manages to tunnel his way out of prison with his bare hands, and the girls get set to exact their own revenge on everyone responsible for the horrible life they’ve been forced to endure. That’s not to mention some more shoveled-in rape and cannibalism for good measure.
Honestly, Hidden in the Woods sounds like a much more shocking and confidently exploitative piece of work than it actually is. Director Valladares appears to have very little control over what ends up in front of his camera, with scenes becoming more and more visually incomprehensible and poorly edited as the story progresses. The violence is harsh and bloody but frequently obscured by a wildly swinging lens and confusing close-ups. Tonally, it’s all over the place – scenes of incestuous and plain rape are suitably disgusting, but moments of unexpected cannibalism (and the reaction to it) come completely out of left field. That’s not to mention the rampant comedic aspects (the father emerging from the soil while prison spotlights swing in the background is straight from some kind of sketch show), and other elements such as an ill-conceived blowjob montage paint a hue so utterly bizarre that it’s clear Valladares has absolutely no idea what he wants from this film.
Morally, it’s also particularly vile with just about every male character being an abuser, a rapist, a cheat, a drug dealing thug or just a complete imbecile in general. On the other hand, Valladares’ camera spends most of the second half of the film gleefully drooling over the exposed cleavage and barely contained breasts of his protagonists – who, it should be remembered, spend the majority being mentally, physically, and sexually abused.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the film was indeed forthright in its acceptance of its exploitative nature, but it is completely undermined and unacceptable given the schizophrenic changes in tone. Worse still, with all of this craziness going on, one would think Hidden in the Woods would at least manage to avoid generating boredom – but there’s no such luck here. Once the story settles into the blowjob-odyssey portion, it begins to crawl and fails to really pick up again beyond a few brief spurts of action and gore. Simply put: There’s no real reason to watch this, save curiosity. It’s poorly written, poorly directed and poorly edited, existing solely to display as much depraved activity by characters with little to no redeeming qualities as it possibly can before throwing in a lame twist that is of absolutely no consequence in the end.
There are plenty of worthwhile exploitation and rape/revenge flicks out there, but Hidden in the Woods isn’t one of them.
1/2 out of 5