Hidden in the Woods DVD Review: Hell is Other People

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Directed by Patricio Valladares, Hidden in the Woods is a grimy but somewhat silly exploitation film from Chile. While this 2012 flick features an awful lot of bloodshed and rape, it doesn’t earn billing among the titans of New Wave extreme horror. It isn’t so much unrelenting as it is repetitive and sometimes strikingly careless.

Valladares, who is also directing the to-be-released American remake, starts with some early scenes that are truly disquieting. But when Hidden in the Woods settles in, it traffics in replication and an off-kilter crime plot that simply exists to give the distressed protagonists something to do.

Daniel Antivilo is the abusive father to two girls, Ana (Siboney Lo) and Anny (Carolina Escobar), and a “deformed” son Manuel (Jose Hernandez). After nearly two decades of cruelty, rape and brutality, he is confronted by police on a seemingly routine call and goes ballistic. His grown-up kids escape in the process and flee further into the woods.

Naturally, dad is a drug dealer. By killing two cops, he puts himself on dangerous ground with his employer (Serge Francois Soto) and is pursued by the drug lord’s gang. To make matters worse, the kingpin also believes that Ana and Anny know something and sets his sights on them.

Hidden in the Woods purports to be based on true events and that’s very likely. There are sadly countless stories of abuse and torture, so one doesn’t have to reach very far to find the sort of violence Ana, Anny and Manuel undergo. Setting the drug lord narrative upon this footing of cruelty is another matter.

Valladares’ picture eyes itself as an exploitation flick. It revels in the sexual content and viciousness it doodles across the screen, but it winds up blurring the lines between sexual violence viewed through an authentic lens and gratuitous shots of Ana and Anny’s cleavage.

That these lines would be distorted (and perhaps even snubbed) is nothing new in exploitation cinema, of course, and the very finest examples of artistic trash generally don’t hide their abominable natures. In Valladares’ case, the busy bosoms of these savage sisters wind up frequently mitigated with the puerile ramblings of cruel rapists.

For every montage of Ana performing oral sex for food money and writhing sensually in bed with a devotee, there are two scenes of some parasite holding a weapon against Anny’s screaming head and vowing to rape her. Whether the younger sister is set upon by arbitrary hikers or cardboard gangsters, she certainly seems a favourite target.

Hidden in the Woods is a struggle to watch, but the struggle has little if anything to do with its I-dare-you content. This is a film that is cluttered and baffling from an artistic viewpoint. It’s often hard to tell who is stabbing, shooting or eating who, especially during one disarrayed shower fight that pits pa against a corpulent would-be killer.

As far as characterization goes, there’s even more trouble in the woods. For two girls raised away from society for their entire lives, Ana and Anny are remarkably urbane. Manuel is a catastrophe altogether, while the tailing thugs’ discourse consists of stupidly shouting either “I’m gonna fuck you” or “Let’s get those girls.”

A repetitive haze of rape, bleary bloodshed, flesh-eating, cleavage, overblown screaming, and more rape, Hidden in the Woods isn’t a good film. While some may see it as a test of filmic fortitude, the only genuine hell it puts the viewer through is that it’s such a wasted opportunity.

Hidden in the Woods is out now on DVD thanks to the good people at Artsploitation Films. The movie is presented in Spanish with sometimes ungainly English subtitles (complete with a few typos).

There is a behind-the-scenes feature that doesn’t provide much by way of insight, while an interview with Valladares that explains that the film is about “revenge” and briefly details the Chilean movie industry.

There’s also a booklet that features an essay by Travis Crawford about the “controversy” of Hidden in the Woods. Predictably, the write-up defends the movie’s sexual violence and suggests that “no film has contained so much screaming per minute of screen time.” If that’s not a selling feature…

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