‘The Girl in the Woods’: Monsters, Cults and Small Town Charm

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Photo: ‘The Girl in the Woods’

A mysterious girl shows up out of nowhere, finding herself in an Oregon small town. Her goal is to befriend the misfits of the town and encourage them to help her in a noble quest to stop monsters. To say the least they are confused but the girl, Carrie, convinces them that a gate to the underworld has been opened and now monsters are escaping, prepared to attack the oblivious townspeople. elated article: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Dune’ Full Commentary, Reactions, Making Of – Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac

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The show reminisces of a modern-day ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Stranger Things,’ both of which combine fantastical gothic themes and terrifying monsters with the everyday lives of ordinary teenagers. Unfortunately, where the other shows have vibrant characters and memorable plot twists and villains, ‘The Girl in the Woods’ appears to be another average replica. 

What is ‘The Girl in the Woods’ About?

Carrie, played by Stefanie Scott, appears in the Oregon small town of West Pine. She escaped from the Disciples of Dawn which she explains to be a cult, tasked with protecting humankind from the demons hiding on the other side of the door to hell. In fact, in lieu of the betrayal of one of her friends, Will Yun Lee, she finds new friends who both want to leave West Pines for good, Nolan played by Misha Osherovich and Tasha played by Sofia Bryant. Their combined interests create the perfect ragtag team to destroy the demons. 

There is nothing wrong with the leading crew, in fact, they are all sweet and dedicated to their roles. Respectively, Osherovich and Bryant create personas that are not just kind but also trope-wise the best fit for Carrie, who needs a team behind her back. 

The short longevity of the season, only 8 episodes each 30 minutes long, help increase the pace of the plot, keep it short but sweet. The second half hits the horror mark too, with the last four episodes containing genuinely terrifying scenes like one with a monster hiding in a mirror where he can only move if the victim isn’t looking. 

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Identity and Sexuality in ‘The Girl in the Woods’ 

Most admirable is how the main character is a young female queer and how the show delivers it in a casual, refreshing, and much-needed way. The characters teach how compassion and space are key to understanding the importance of self-identity especially in the context of sexuality, gender, and individual journeys of discovery. More than that, it doesn’t become a defining factor of the characters, instead just one important aspect that makes up their better whole. 

The side characters, played by Osherovich and Bryant do the best job of creating dynamic characters. They have a bit of romantic chemistry, healthy skepticism regarding the entire monsters situation, and realistic dialogue. The other characters are not given the writing or screen-time necessary to half the same success. 

‘The Girl in the Woods’ Falls Slightly Short of Superstar YA Horror Status 

‘The Girl in the Woods’ gets close to achieving the same high intensity, engaging ability of ‘The Hunger Games’ and other action-dystopian type films, but it has room to improve. Perhaps with more of a budget or longer season, this could have all been accomplished. Unfortunately, often the show is predictable and dull, from the dimmed lighting to gray color palette to the big reveals that did not quite hit their mark until way after the initial reveal. The slang and dialogue is outdated, cringy at many points and it draws away from the strong suits of the series. 

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Said strong suits lie in Carrie’s identity crisis as the hell-world door, Gehenna, threatens to open, Tasha’s grief over losing her mother and having to pay off medical debt, and Nolan’s struggle to understand their non-binary identity. Scott as Carrie also does a good job of shifting from a stoic, unbreakable, unreadable character into a vulnerable young girl who slowly unlearns the harsh ways of the Disciples of Dawn cult.

Cinematography Adds Class and Suspense to Horror Show 

The show is an original on the NBC streaming service, Peacock, and as such the first half of the season is directed by Krysten Ritter. Ritter is primarily known for her impressive work on ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Jessica Jones,’ Her use of low angles, pans and shifts from focus to blurry helped add suspense and an edge to the show that the writing and characters were lacking. It even overpowered the cringy makeover scene and boring shots that surfaced when Ritter wasn’t the primary director on scene. 

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Her directing even succeeds in the difficult task of uplifting the plot, merging with the unique plot points to add a layer of excitement and engagement that was lacking before. In this fifth episode, the trio splits up and has to each fight a different villain, speeding up the pace and leaving cliffhangers galore. The increase in gore and bloodshed, and character deaths that are not just shocking but also brutal to watch are definitely worth the title of YA Horror genre. If the show had managed to build on this momentum and sustain it for the entire series, ‘The Girl in the Woods’ would have been a force to reckon with. 

It sets up for a Season 2 in a slightly rushed and overrated finale and we can only wait to see if said season comes and if it grows into something better, something truly amazing to watch. We have high hopes and cannot wait to see what Stefanie Scott and the crew come up with. 

Cast: Stefanie Scott, Sofia Bryant, Misha Osherovich, Reed Diamond, Will Yun Lee, Kylie Liya Page, Leonard Roberts, Meg McLynn, Mark Steger

Cinematography: Maxine Alexandre | Editor: Scott van Beever | Directors: Jacob Chase Krysten Ritter | Writers: Joey Greene, Felicio Ho, J. Casey Modderno | Producers: Jeremy Elliott, beth Tashjian, Darren Brandl Jacob Chase, Jack Davis, Cameron Fuller, Joey Greene, Jasmine Johnson

By Mireille Karadanaian

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