Review: Luis Iga Garza’s “Murder in the Woods”

On August 14 2020, Rezinate Pictures and Yel Productions released their slasher flick, Murder in the Woods, to small theaters and drive-in venues. While the digital and on demand street date of September 18th 2020 is just a few weeks away, I was able to get my hands on a screener. Yes, Murder in the Woods is critically acclaimed by other reviewers and, yes, every summer needs a “cabin in the woods” type slasher film, but, really, the main reason I wanted to check this out is because scream king Danny Trejo is front and center on the poster pictures above. Written and produced by Yelyna De Leon, Murder in the Woods follows a small group of very dramatic college friends who embark on a getaway weekend to celebrate one of their own’s birthday in seclusion. Soon after arriving at the cabin, the young adults start disappearing one by one and they discover that the venue is home to a very sinister and vengeful killer. Directed and produced by Luis Iga Garza, this film stars Jose Julian, Jeanette Samano, Chelsea Rendon, Catherine Toribio, Jordan Diambrini, Kade Wise, Soledad St. Hilaire and, of course, Danny Trejo.

Murder in the Woods features cinematography by Nick Albert and editing by Ryan Liebert. When examining this movie from a production standpoint, I have two minor complaints. First, the lighting in the foyer of the home casts shadows on the walls unnecessarily. Second, the special effects bounced between great and barely passable. Still, Murder in the Woods really brings the quality in every other moment and in every other area of production, so it’s easy to overlook these flaws. Especially because the overall quality of the shots that take place outside are exceedingly perfect. Now, the script, on the other hand, well, that’s where I start to wince and say ouch. I know that horror films are filled with sex, suspense and cliches, but that doesn’t mean you have to walk into – every – single – stereotype. You can manage to make your story fun and exciting without traditional elements as long as you have ingenuity. Because of this, Murder in the Woods blends into the woodwork when stacked against other movies in its bracket.

Except that it boasts an all Latino cast and it looks like the major players behind the scenes were Latino as well. It’s sad to see that this is one of the only films in recent memory to feature a diverse group of characters, because, hey, a serial killer is a serial killer, and anyone is capable of falling victim to a murderer. While this casting detail is worth mentioning, it didn’t change my opinion on this title and the entire group of young adults featured in this movie delivered strong performances. Also, they’re all super attractive and that’s always a plus; to watch hot people bite the dust. My favorite part of the film, though, was how the bodies kept disappearing in the beginning of the movie, giving it an almost comical effect. And although they kept showing this shot of a boy in a window and I saw the twist coming a mile away (if you pay attention), Murder in the Woods was entertaining enough to hold my interest the whole way through. I don’t know if it’s worth the price of drive-in tickets, but it’s certainly worth streaming this Halloween season.

Next time, give me more Danny Trejo. Just kidding. Sort of. Murder in the Woods is slightly generic in terms of setting, suspense and story, but it’s a well crafted and beautifully acted slasher flick. It’s only fault is that it brings nothing new to the table.

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)

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