Boyz in the Wood (2 stars)

Boyz in the Wood

EIFF 2019: Ninian Doff's debut is a childish comedy horror set in the Scottish Highlands

'What a load of nonsense,' announces Kate Dickie's befuddled policewoman during writer-director Ninian Doff's feature debut. And, frankly, it's hard to argue. Winner of the Midnighters Audience Award at SXSW, Boyz in the Wood sees four teenagers arrive in the Scottish Highlands to complete a hike as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, only to find that they're the targets of mysterious hunters who regularly cull teenagers who pass through the area. With vain DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) more interested in promoting his rap career, and the other boys more interested in smoking joints, it's up to the sheltered Ian (Samuel Bottomley) to pull them together to face down an unseen enemy

Boyz in the Wood aspires to surreal humour, but gets bogged down in negativity about the Scottish Highlands, portrayed as a parochial hell-hole where the police are obsessed with local bread thieves and the locals have never heard of hip-hop. Familiar faces like Eddie Izzard and Dickie try hard, but there's not much that can be done with an endless parade of dick and paedophile gags and weirdly out-dated targets for jokes, such as British Leyland. Alice Lowe's character doesn't even have a name (she's billed as Superintendent) and vanishes after one sketchy scene.

Best known for his music videos, including work for the Chemical Brothers and Miike Snow, Doff never sells the jokes effectively, and routines about using lumps of cannabis as plastic explosives, or eating rabbit droppings for narcotic effect fail to amuse despite their inherent silliness. And the film's central action scene is ruined by Doff reverting to a pop video aesthetic that reduces potentially tense action to a jumble of images. Only James Cosmo, listed in the credits as Farmer, offers a handle on such childish material; the actor gives his scenes an engagingly knowing tone. Poorly scripted and casually made, Doff's film is a lame stab at comedy horror that offers precious little of either commodity.

Screening on Wed 19 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019. General release TBC.

Get Duked!

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • 1h 27min
  • Directed by: Ninian Doff
  • Cast: Viraj Juneja, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Samuel Bottomley, Eddie Izzard, Kate Dickie, James Cosmo

Four teenagers (Juneja, Bottomley, Gordon, Gribben) arrive in the Scottish Highlands to complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, only to find themselves the target of mysterious hunters. Doff’s debut aspires to be funny, but it’s a poorly scripted and casually made stab at comedy horror that offers precious little…