Marcel Walz is back with another exciting feature film, fresh off the success of his previous project, the Blood Feast remake. While his previous film was a re-imagining of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1963 cult classic, Rootwood is a completely original story, and a female driven monster movie. Shot under Silent Partners and based on the screenplay by Mario von Czapiewski, Rootwood follows two students who host “The Spooky Hour,” a podcast about paranormal phenomena and urban legends. When they are hired by Hollywood film producer Laura Benott to shoot a horror documentary about the curse of The Wooden Devil, they smell their chance to become famous. Together, with their friend Erin, they enter Rootwood Forest and investigate the area to find out the truth about The Wooden Devil and his victims. An even darker mix of The Forest, The Blair Witch Project and Insidious, the film stars Elissa Dowling (Tales of Halloween), Tyler Gallant (Alpha Wolf), Sarah French (Ouija House), Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Brandon Rhea (Ultimate Justice) and Tiffani Fest (Serena Waits).
Rootwood instantly speaks to those of us working in independently in the horror business – writers like myself, film-makers, podcasters and artists. We’re all looking for that one thing that’ll catapult us into success instead of using what we love as a side hobby. That’s why I think every independent worker needs to check out Rootwood. You’ll just get “it,” that passion and that drive that makes you chase fame and lucrative sales…even if it’s at the cost of those around you in a dark, haunted forest. For casual viewers, know that Rootwood revives the dying subgenre of practical effect creature features while also making it a modern motion picture thanks to the use of technology and the integration of found footage (as confessionals, documentary scenes, etc) with traditional narrative story-telling. There’s a lot to look at here, including the beautiful talent and the even more breath-taking scenery, but try to remain focused on the story. It’s creepy and suspenseful until the very end, and it encompasses all demographics of horror lovers.
As the podcast turned documentary film-makers in Rootwood are armed with cameras and an impressive RV, the film itself is armed with extra weapons as well. First, the scores were absolutely inquisitive and reminded me of the craziness of Insidious. Fitting and hair-raising in all the right moments. The cast is super-talented and fronted by two members of the next scream queen generation – Elissa Dowling and Sarah French – and highlighted only by the iconic, eternal talents of Felissa Rose. Rose is continuing to show growth as an actress, even after 30 years in the business, and Rootwood is one of her best performances in recent years. And what’s even better, all of the actors and actresses in this flick have real chemistry. It truly felt like friends and associates working together on a passion project more than performers just reciting lines. Throw in amazing gore and creature design from Headcase Studios and Rootwood is a stunning success in every department. Although, you’ll have to wait until the very end to get a full glimpse at the creature.
Directed by Marcel Walz, produced by Ruediger W. Kuemmerle, edited by Kale Bogatzki, and featuring cinematography by Thomas Rist, Rootwood is a foreboding, bonafide horror hit. It’s destined for a big distribution deal, if it doesn’t have one in place already. It was better than I expected it to be and actually one of the best creature features to come out this year. A classic build-up in suspense, a bloody-good trip of terror, and expertly produced by all those in front of and behind the camera. Keep it up, Marcel! Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.