Dir. Dane Elcar (2022)
A couple find themselves trapped while jogging around a pond.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in the woods with someone you hate. When couple Jen (Dana Berger) and Dan (Max Woertendyke) go jogging after a night spent fighting, they head to a pond with a trail that runs around it, a perfect track for a jogging circuit. Unfortunately, the trails are starting to disappear, and Jen and Dan find themselves lost in a wide open familiar space. It’s an existential horror that doesn’t sound as scary as it would inevitably be, and the thought of getting lost in a place that you know like the back of your hand could be terrifying. As the couple traverses lap after lap around the pond, their plight leaves them more and more petrified that they’ll never find their way out.
With a fantastic, isolating score that leaves the audience feeling as alone as Jen and Dan, director Dane Elcar does a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension in this no-frills psychological horror. The remove location serves as a reverberating echo of their relationship, the repeating nature of the trail a mirror image of the endlessness of the couple’s fights. When they reach a resolution to their problem, they become resolute in their direction. It matters little, because despite the steadfastness of their search for the trail, it eludes them.
An study that alternates between a dissertation on an unhappy relationship and an insanity-laced jogging trip, Brightwood somehow manages to make a tight and compelling story with a cast of two and no real villains besides themselves. There’s something off about the entire exercise, which quickly devolves into a timewarp experience a la Triangle. Our unhappily married couple plays with paradoxes, at one point even stealing a hoodie from another version of themselves to create sun cover for their present self. It can be a bit confusing at times, as movies like this are wont to be, but it’s very well done and avoids any inconsistencies throughout. As this is one of the harder things to avoid in a movie that is as potentially convoluted as this one, it’s a credit to the Elcar, who both wrote and directed the film.
Brightwood certainly a slow burn that can feel repetitive (heh) at times, which is really the only major gripe against the film. All in all, though, it’s a relatively tightly told story with just a few slight pacing issues. The sound is fantastic, and the cinematography does an excellent job of selling the isolation in an otherwise beautiful location. It’s well told and way better than it feels like it should be. When the dust settles, there’s enough gore to gross you out and very few plotholes, if any. You can’t ask for a whole lot more from than this from a low-budget indie film.
Who this movie is for: Psychological horror fans, Time travel buffs, Outdoorsmen
Bottom line: Brightwood is one of the better timewarp films that I’ve come across, an exercise in isolation and repetitive trauma. The two leads are very good, inserting a bit of humor at times that doesn’t take away from the overall story or feel. It’s gruesome when it needs to be and unsettling as well, a really good indie effort that is definitely worth a look. Check it out if you get the chance.