Synopsis: What is it like to be stuck in a person’s nightmare?
Ten years ago, this film was born out of just that, a nightmare. Writer, Maggie Colligan, woke up and documented every nitty, gritty facet of the chaos of her dream. So here we are. We meet three friends: Jerry, Lauren, and Meg. Setting: An Isolated cabin. Warm lights, relaxing crickets. It is a good time. Then, Meg goes out for a smoke. And then, she finds a boy. The three friends act quickly to protect him, but from what? A man, a creature? What was it? What was that noise in the darkness, that face in the woods?
Michael Dominguez Beddome (Jerry)
Kate Gustafson (Lauren)
Mannix Hood (The Boy)
Lexee McEntee (The Woman Who Eats)
Connecting to the Story:
“What’s in the Woods?” is an homage to classic thriller films. Ten years ago the script was born out of a nightmare. Writer, Maggie Colligan, woke up and documented every nitty, gritty facet of the chaos of this dream. When I first read the story I was immediately drawn in and struck by the visual elements of the film, but more so by the fact that even after ten years of its first draft, the characters were still relatable on a personal level. It is a simple story: three friends are alone in a home when a mysterious person comes to them from the woods. Then more come. Surrounded and scared, they have to work together to make it through the night.
However, as simple as it may seem, I saw a lot of subtext—or maybe it was my own projections—that helped me relate to the characters. There’s the friendship which reminded me so much of my own best-friend-throuple with my husband and our roommate. Then there is Meg, the woman at the heart of this story. The move of her friends to the woods marks a big change in her life. That shift makes her question her confidence, putting her in a truly vulnerable place. At this age, I relate a lot to Meg. The cusp of thirty is a big change. I often find myself seeing the stages that my peers are at in life and wondering: am I doing what I should be doing?
To me, these connections show the power and the timelessness that a horror story can hold. It can mean so much more to the viewer than what we see on screen. It can strike us in so many different ways on a much deeper level than we can imagine or even understand. It brings our most vulnerable selves to the forefront. This story is about fear and uncertainty on many levels and how we approach it. How does it manifest in our lives? And particularly in this movie, how does it affect us in this insanely heightened situation? How do we let our fear control us and guide us? How far does fear push us? And at the end of all things, what do we have to live with when we let our fear rule us? Is it a metamorphosis that comes at the hands of letting our instincts guide us, or is it a tragedy doomed to its destiny? At the end we always ask “What’s left?”, “What happened?” —that is up to the viewer to decide.
On the Look:
One night, I was doing research for the look book and my husband mentioned Goya’s Black Paintings. At the end of his life, the painter, Francisco Goya, went mad. He painted a series of truly haunting images on the walls of his home. Cut to: me immediately googling these images. Predictably so, I had that feeling of wanting to look away but not being able to. I did a deep dive, walked the long path through the rabbit hole. I was attracted to the contrast of the composition in many of the paintings. They were images of mostly dark backgrounds with a shining spotlight on the most evil of deeds. This chiaroscuro inspired the duality of the wickedness within the story and how we went about portraying each of the characters in the film.
Note of Gratitude:
Representation has been at the forefront of our minds, starting with the web series we made to promote and fund the film. As we built our team for the film shoot we kept the same goal in mind. We actively sought to create an all-inclusive set that represented and fostered a welcome environment for people of many different races, sexual identities, ages, and gender identities. Since the start of this journey we have been lucky enough to work with over fifty dynamic professionals who have joined our team as cast and crew for both our web series and this film. We are so lucky that these extremely talented professionals gave their time, resources, and of course their true excitement to help us continue bringing life to this project. We are extremely grateful to all of our family, friends, colleagues, and supporters who have bolstered us throughout this entire process.
With “What’s in the Woods?,” Michel Dominguez Beddome will be making her directorial debut as a Mexican-American Female Filmmaker. The Texas born, Florida raised, NYU Tisch grad, and current New York City dweller grew up in the loving home of two Mexican parents who continually support her obsession with the arts and storytelling. ¡Viva Mexico!