There’s scarcely a setting for a horror movie more consistently frightening (and overused) than the woods. From The Blair Witch Project to Exists and Willow Creek, filmmakers and audiences alike just cannot get over our fascination with what might be lurking in the trees. In the case of Enclosure, the new, forest-based movie from writer-director Patrick Rea (The Empty Acre, Nailbiter) what’s hiding in there is probably best left unseen – and not for the reasons you’d think.
The story follows young, married couple Charles (Kevin Ryan) and Dana (Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad) who are, in a shocking twist, blissfully in love and super-happy together. The only source of tension between the two comes from her desire to have children one day. He’s against it, and feels they should travel and have adventures instead. This is the idea behind their camping trip, which is also their last chance to be alone together before he heads off on tour for six months.
Unbeknownst to Charles, Dana is pregnant and grappling with the idea of getting an abortion. As they hike through the trees looking for a spot, an abandoned backpack hints at the danger to come – cleverly, we see it, but they don’t. Dana’s a photographer, so when things go bump in the night she’s more likely to grab her camera than run for the hills. But, when a load of army dudes get spooked and an injured man ends up in their tent, spouting nonsense about the threat outside, their fear starts to build.
At first, this is an intimate, realistic portrayal of a couple in love, one that could be exploited for frights once the pressure starts to mount. The addition of Busey shakes up the dynamic, and Ryan and Dourif are believable together, but there simply aren’t enough scares once the flick establishes its central conceit. And, although it obeys the cardinal rules of a creature feature (hold off on the money shot for as long as possible, show people being dragged off screaming, etc.) when we do see the monster, it’s a major letdown.
Enclosure is closest in theme to The Hallow, which was steeped in creepy, localized lore and a strong mythology. Here, it’s suggested, somewhat ludicrously, that Dana is drawn to the spot because of her pregnancy but that it also protects her, instead of putting her at risk. In that case, what reason is there for her to be scared of the monsters? Once this fact is established, the movie grinds to a halt, all of the suspense lost as a slow crawl builds towards an inevitable, and incredibly nonsensical, conclusion.
The issue is that the creatures aren’t particularly scary, in spite of some terrific make-up work. They look a bit sad, and the environmental theme seems to hint that humans are the real villains, but then doesn’t explore this idea beyond a couple of random nods. A recurring image of pine needles embedded in skin with drops of blood is pretty, but empty. And although the fact it’s mostly based in the tent shows a decent amount of ingenuity, nothing is really done with the setup.
By the end, Enclosure has far outstayed its welcome, lumbered with a decent concept that is neither fully developed, nor has enough scare potential to properly sell it. Among all of the other forest-based horror movies, this is tame, and often quite boring stuff. It’s still a win for Dourif, however, who further solidifies her position as one of the most interesting actresses in recent years, and a Scream Queen in training – if only she could find a role worthy of her talents.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Patrick Rea
Writer(s): Patrick Rea, Michelle Davidson
Stars: Fiona Dourif, Kevin Ryan, Jake Busey, Rob Bouton
Release: 2016 (date TBC)
Studio/ Production Co: Producer Capital Fund
Length: 100 minutes
Sub-Genre: Creature feature