The Polish slasher NOBODY SLEEPS IN THE WOODS TONIGHT has surprisingly found its way into the Netflix charts. We reveal how this could have happened and what the VOD hit is all about in our review of the film.
OT: W lesie dzis nie zasnie nikt (PL 2020)
A group of technology-addicted teenagers go to offline camp. For digital detox. To kick the habit. Or just for an adventure. Some of them are even there again. But this round of the camp doesn’t go as it should: hiking together in the forest without access to smartphones soon turns into a bloodbath. Because there is a deadly danger lurking in the forest that is hunting teenagers. Will at least some of them escape it and learn what true friendship, love and sacrifice are?
Classic “A killer is after us, let’s get away” slashers have their dedicated fan base – but are becoming increasingly difficult to implement in the form in which they have become popular. Because while in the 1980s it was plausible that a horde of young people would run through the forest like a flock of startled chickens while a masked murderer slashed them up piece by piece – and while in the 1990s figures still existed suspected as a killer becamebecause they had a cell phone with them – these days, with such story constructs, the question inevitably arises: “Why doesn’t anyone call for help?”
At night, alone in the forest, without a cell phone, waiting for the killer…
Horror filmmakers have since taken three different paths to deal with the cell phone story problem: Some have tried to simply ignore the existence of cell phones for as long as possible, or come up with some flimsy excuse (“We’re way too far out!”, “Oh no, all of our batteries went dead at the same time!”). This solution is gradually dying out. Others turn the clock and simply let their slashers take place in the past, or even create their own, diffuse aesthetic that doesn’t allow for a concrete temporal setting, so that they ignore the question “Why doesn’t everyone just pull out their cell phones?” And then there is the option of creating a plausible reason immanent to the action. Friends are “finally having a weekend without a cell phone.” Or the parts were stolen. Or were broken very early in the story. Or it’s about an anti-cell phone camp. This digital detox solution is slowly becoming its own slasher cliché, but it is still a smarter option than relying on a chain of coincidences or completely ignoring the telecommunications elephant in the room.
“Horror filmmakers have taken three different paths to deal with the cell phone story problem: some tried to simply ignore the existence of cell phones for as long as possible, others turned the clock and simply set their slashers in the past. And then there is the option of creating a plausible reason that is immanent to the action.”
The Polish slasher “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” has opted for the digital detox branch – but otherwise what author and director Bartosz M. Kowalski assumes (“Playground”) and Jan Kwiecinski and Mirella Zaradkiewicz, who also worked on the script, serve up here in the style of (retro) homage. Because “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” dutifully checks off one reference (or a copied number) after the other. The “camp in the middle of the forest” setting is known from “Friday the 13th” and “Bloody Summer – The Camp of Horrors”, among others. A minor character notes that the events are strikingly reminiscent of horror films – and soon afterwards “the six deadly sins of a horror film” are listed, which mean your certain death. “Scream” sends greetings. Individual kills in “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” are direct copies of iconic kills from “Friday the 13th” or “Wrong Turn” films. And (to think outside the box) from “Fargo.” There is a scene that comes out of nowhere with a long, funny policeman monologue – a variation of the policeman scenes from “The Last House on the Left”. And the copying party is far from over.
This creature is targeting teens.
It will be in the eye of the beholder what to make of it. Kowalski does not mix his role models with his own ideas as masterfully as reference masters like Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Wes Anderson or Paul Thomas Anderson do. And “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” is just as little a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating horror party film as the wonderfully sardonic “You Might Be the Killer”. Some will call that lazy, others are happy to see another slasher throwback that neither rides on a high horse nor fools around. And at least his killer backstory is quite extraordinary. Regardless, what “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” does above all else is awaken a desire for its role models. If you know it – if you don’t know it, what remains is a straightforward teen slasher that has few outstanding features and therefore, all in all, won’t be remembered for long. Furthermore, even with a length of just over 100 minutes, it already feels overstretched – in the middle part it treads too much on the spot.
“What “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” does above all else is make you want to listen to your role models. If you know them. “If you don’t know it, what you’re left with is a straightforward teen slasher that has few outstanding features and therefore, all in all, won’t be remembered for long.”
But that doesn’t mean that “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” has no qualities at all. Kowalski’s direction is pleasing, the polished camera work is quite attractive and the kills, if not original, at least nice and rough. “Rudeness” now seems to be de rigueur for Polish Netflix films (“Plagi Breslau” and “365 Days” send their regards!). In addition, the characters are not particularly diverse, but they are at least mostly likeable, which makes it easier to feel sorry for them. When an unouted gay man pours his heart out or we see two friends suffering in an extended agony, it pays off emotionally that “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” didn’t cast its teens as pure cannon fodder. The implied sequel may, but does not have to, come.
Conclusion: Another entry is being added to Netflix’s collection of bawdy Polish films. “Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” is neither as bold as “Plagi Breslau” nor as “WTF?!” as “365 Days,” but it is a straight-up, old-fashioned slasher. The kills are often stolen, but they are almost always well and dramatically staged. Off-the-shelf horror goods, but nice to look at.
“Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight” is now available to stream on Netflix.