The Woods is a serious horror short film which — coming from a comedic and oftentimes rather off the wall YouTube channel — seems a little strange, but Sugar Pine 7 have shown that their acting, cinematography, and serious writing skills are all just as impressive as their approach to comedy. With such a background in film-related studies and experience, as well as “Famous Actor” James Allen McCune (Blair Witch) as the unit production manager, the short is a very exciting prospect, and a step towards the group’s goal of releasing a full-length film.
The Woods follows a group of young friends on a trip to a cabin out in some isolated forest. The group consists of Steven Suptic, Clayton James (Cib), James DeAngelis, Devin Parker, Elliot Morgan, and Mimi Torres. All of the main cast (and a few of the behind the scenes crew) have made appearances on Sugar Pine 7, and they come together to make something passionate and genre-aware. The whole team seems to have worked together to create the short, from the actors to the unit production manager, to Autumn Farrell as editor.
There are fantastic performances from all involved. Mimi Torres and Steven Suptic are standouts, but no one is a slouch. Everyone has their own highlight moments, and overall the acting quality is incredible. A particular highlight is the scene in which Steven holds Mimi back as she hears one of the group being torn apart outside, desperate to help in any way she could, but Steven knows it would just mean her death. The passion in both of their performances really brings the scene to life, a small part of the whole that stands out itself as brilliantly done.
As with Sugar Pine 7’s videos, The Woods has a fantastic selection of music and sound design. Everything feels in place and clean, and on a second watch you can really tell the crew thought through the bigger picture. Steven’s acting reflects the latter revelation for the viewer in regards to his father, with a sombre tone in his return to his father’s cabin. In addition, all of the characters have a chemistry with each other. They each feel like a real person, despite the little time available for character development.
There are a lot of little nods to things Sugar Pine 7 fans would notice, but nothing that alienates an entirely new viewer. Things such as the cabin being named Sugar Pine, and Steven’s father’s voice on the phone being that of his father in the SP7 videos, are small bits and pieces that light up for fans, but remain innocuous to those whose introduction into SP7 is this short.
Showing the creature, the bloodthirsty thing that stalks the group, in broad daylight in a clear shot is an incredibly bold choice, but it pays off — the monster looks great, and the shots aren’t long enough to scrutinize but long enough to get a good look at the strange thing. The Woods is an incredibly polished experience, from the fantastic cinematography (which is expected) to the makeup and practical effects.
The biggest negative is the shortcomings of any short film: there are a few details that come up but aren’t elaborated on in the running time. Steven’s father’s message is a heartfelt moment, and one can draw many links from that to how he acts as the story progresses, but it’s not brought up again, and the circumstances that could be so important behind his father’s death are left in the dark. Overall they did a good job containing the plot within the allotted time, but allowing for growth in the mind of the viewer, there are just those few things that beg for more to be said.
The Woods is highly recommended viewing for both fans of SP7 and for fans of horror content in general. They capture the essence of a slasher film, and mix it with the desperation found in isolation. It hits a lot of tropes, and the flow of things is quite easily recognized, but it comes across as a clean and lovingly created short. The Woods is available to watch on Rooster Teeth’s website for First members (subscribers), now is available on YouTube to watch for free (including a short comedy trailer skit at the start), and even had a physical opening night. If this is what the team at Sugar Pine 7 can do with a short film, then they’re sure to blow viewers away when they move onto a feature film.