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Movie Review: ‘Meadowoods’

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Originally released in 2010, Meadowoods is an interesting attempt at using the found-footage movie model to tell a story about three jaded and antisocial young people who agree to commit murder to relieve their boredom. Although the movie suffers from the usual issues associated with found-footage films, many introspective horror fans who have watched their share of turkeys will find that Meadowoods does a pretty good job with the genre. Indeed, this flick comes off as one of the better horror films of its type, and that in itself is enough to give it a recommendation.

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The story centers on three college kids who are victims of their time. Ruled by electronics and a sense of self-entitlement, they have grown up with indifferent parents in a community that leaves them bored. There’s Travis (Connor Thorp), a sociopath who wants to leave his mark on society by committing a random murder. There’s Steph (Michele Roe), an introverted, misanthropic girl within which boils unbridled rage. And then there’s Ryan, who prefers to live life through his video camera as an observer, not a participant.

These three desperate souls come together and elect to plot a random murder, with Travis and Steph elected to do the actual killing and Ryan serving as the recorder of the event. Through Ryan’s camera, the trio discusses all facets of the murder, slowly setting their plan into motion. Their victim turns out to be Kayla (Ila Schactler), who through Ryan’s camera shows herself as a creative, musical, and vulnerable young woman.

The bulk of the movie focuses on the trio discussing key components of the murder, such as selecting the victim, learning more about the victim, planning the murder itself (by going to a video store and perusing the horror DVDs), and of course purchasing the materials needed for the murder.

The way the trio plans to murder Kayla is particularly cruel. They plan to bury her alive inside a makeshift coffin, one complete with video cameras. Travis and Steph torment Kayla while she is in the coffin, cutting off her air supply or simply leaving her alone in quiet darkness. The audience is left to watch as these kids carry out their plan, with relief teased only at the film’s bitter conclusion.

Meadowoods does a pretty good job of displaying how groupthink, driven by today’s age of societal decay and electronic saturation, can so easily seduce the weak into admitting that their lives are nothing and that any stimulation—even murder—may lead to what they consider “fame.” Seething anger, morbid fascination, and the need to record even the most trivial of activities (ever read through Facebook posts?) are all explored quite well.

All three actors, as well as the girl who plays the victim, turn in solid performances, and the direction by Scott Phillips, is spot on. The found-footage angle works well throughout most of the film, particularly when Kayla is buried alive.

The film’s key problem, however, remains at how all three young people agree to commit a murder. Boredom is simply not a strong enough reason, and although other factors are hinted at (gaining infamy, for example), this is the primary reason. The undercurrent drive of the film just does not hold water. Moreover, too much of the film remains “talky,” with the plot elements meandering along. This will pose a problem for viewers who want action in their movies. Another problem for horror fans will be the lack of gore or blood, as well as overt tension during the first three-quarters of the movie.

Characterization could have been stronger, but what is presented makes for some complicated people. Steph is very much an introvert, but she also longs to be loved, and thus she tolerates the abuses of Travis. Travis is a sociopath and loves the camera, but he is also vulnerable, and although he displays outward misogyny (even to Steph), he longs for her affections as well. Ryan is the character that suffers most from character development, and this becomes a problem at the film’s climax.

Meadowoods is worth watching, particularly for those who long to experience a film that uses found footage to good effect. It can be purchased as a standalone product or as part of a movie compilation, such as Big Box of Horror (which is how I watched the movie).


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