Poland isn’t known for the horror movie output. But that didn’t stop director Bartosz M. Kowalski from crafting one of more the bloody and off-the-wall slasher efforts in recent memory. Two years ago, Netflix debuted the backwoods knockoff Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight. Despite a lack of originality, the neo-slasher found enough of a following to earn a sequel one year later. Even critics found enough to like about this one.
At Camp Adrenaline, tech-addicted Polish teens give up their phones for a week of camping and outdoor adventure. But the surrounding woods have been hiding a secret for 30 years. On a three-day hike with no way to call for help, these teens and their counsellor will inadvertently uncover that secret. This is one camping trip where nobody will sleep in the woods tonight.
Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight Blurs the Line Between Homage and Derivative
Director Bartosz M. Kowalski, and co-writers Jan Kwiecinski and Mirella Zaradkiewicz, really, really like slasher movies. And they’ve stuffed as many references to classic slashers – as well as a few general movie callbacks – into Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight. On its surface, this Polish slasher is every backwoods rural slasher you’ve ever seen. From The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Wrong Turn, Kowalski et al. even include a nod to the obscure Just Before Dawn. If you know, you know. These influences are joined by every slasher trope a horror fan can call to mind. Deformed cannibal hillbillies, obligatory sex and nudity, characters splitting up, and a Final Girl with a tragic past – it’s all here. Nothing about this movie approaches originality.
These influences are joined by every slasher trope a horror fan can call to mind.
Yet sometimes a little bit of comfort food is all you need. While Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight isn’t a fresh addition to the subgenre, it’s certainly a fun one. Simply put, Kowalski mostly gets it right where it counts the most here. Expect plenty of over-the-top silly gore that puts this slasher more on par with Wrong Turn 2: Dead End or the Hatchet series. Our hulking twin killers rip off limbs, impale heads, and tear out intestines. Most importantly, slasher purists will appreciate the practical effects on display. And all of this carnage unfolds without the slightest conceit of being anything more than just good horror fun.
Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight Pumps Out a Unique Score
Though it’s not a very original movie, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight benefits from a surprisingly likable cast. Generally, slasher movies populate themselves with the kind of characters you’re more than happy to see get dispatched in increasingly brutal ways. But Kowlaski et al. take the time to peel away the stereotypes their characters initially seem to fit. Even the initially annoying Julek gets a moment. No, there’s not deep character arcs on display. Even Final Girl Zosia’s (Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz) background is pretty standard fare. It’s just another additional detail that shows off the director’s affection for the subgenre.
Generally, slasher movies populate themselves with the kind of characters you’re more than happy to see get dispatched in increasingly brutal ways.
The overall impact of this attention to its characters is to earn some audience investment. For what’s essentially a very silly movie, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight actually gets you to care about some of its characters. One last thing working in this slasher’s favour is its unique score. This is a derivative outing elevated by an eccentric score that almost lends the movie that elusive ‘Midnight movie’ vibe. It doesn’t quite get there, but the score feels like another breathing character.
Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight Isn’t Technically Good, But It’s An Amicable Slasher
Nothing Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight approaches originality. This backwoods slasher blurs the line between homage and recycling bits from better movies. What his slasher has working in its favour, however, is that there appears to be a genuine affection for the subgenre. If you’re a diehard slasher fan just looking for a fun movie, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight revels in plenty of gore and practical effects. Likable characters and a unique score prove to be added bonuses. More of the same is sometimes enough.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C+