Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (2020) But They Will Definitely Sleep Through This Slasher
Updated: Mar 13, 2021
Title: Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight
First Wide Release: March 20, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Bartosz M. Kowalski
Writer: Bartosz M. Kowalski, Jan Kwiecinski, Mirella Zaradkiewicz
Runtime: 102 Minutes
Starring: Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz, Michael Lupa, Wiktoria Gasiewska
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Technology addicted high school students gather at a camp for delinquent teens in the middle of the Polish woods. After being separated into smaller clusters, one group, led by their capable leader, begin their trek into the wilderness. Little do they know, that danger lurks in the form of a murderous presence that is stalks them as soon as they enter its territory. Directed by Bartosz M. Kowalski, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight is billed as Poland’s first slasher film.
Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight is an mediocre attempt at creating backwoods horror that offers little suspense, scares, or screams.
There’s a lot of pressure to be the first of anything, and clearly that pressure is felt in this Polish creation. We are treated to the typical conventions of getting to know our hapless heroes as they saunter into the woods completely uninterested in their short plans for their stay at a camp without cell phones. A few of these characters are written in ways that subtly subvert a trope only to immediately fall into another. The everyman ends up coming out as gay, the spoiled princess philosophizes her discontent with the way others view her, etc. We also get to experience some really pretty visuals of the forest and lake.
While oftentimes inconsistent, these characters are at least affable enough to maintain some level of interest. The story does not benefit similarly. Extraordinarily convoluted and oddly paced, the script is simply all over the place. Unnecessary characters and subplots are added that bring little value to the film, often raising more questions than answers. Specifically, I’m talking about the inclusion of the priest and the man with the mangled leg.
Continuing this trend, I’m still trying to figure out what happened with one of the characters. They seemingly meet their demise a little past halfway through the film only to die some twenty minutes to the end. Why make them disappear for so long? What does this accomplish? Another instance involves a disappointing omission of sound. I’m all for subverting expectations and misdirecting the audience, but it is kind of insulting to literally impale a character without even the faintest of sounds to clue in an audience member. It’s lazy!
I think what bothers me most about this film is the missed opportunity of it all. The villain story, in particular, could have been really interesting if the villain wasn’t introduced so early and the history wasn’t delivered in an exposition dump. And the villain, is actually really cool. Using practical effects to achieve its look, the villain is pretty scary looking, even if it is reminiscent of other films. Its sound design is also top notch. The grunts are incredibly off-putting, enough to make your hair stand on end.
The tone of Nobody Sleeps Alone in the Woods Tonight teeters between the serious and the comedic, as the script offers up some healthy amounts of Polish humor baked into the script. Full disclosure: I am not used to Polish humor. It’s not a big secret that humor is hard to translate between cultures. So, this barrier did make it harder for me to enjoy the film, but I think that is mostly because I am not used to it.
The story really leans into its, largely surface level, commentary on the effects technology has on youth for its first half before abandoning it in somewhere in the second act. Once the first body drops, other than two incredibly dumb decisions related to phones, it’s pretty much a non-issue. There’s also some subplot dealing with homosexuality that initially looks like its offered up as a throwaway piece of character development that turns into something more than that. It’s still incredibly underbaked to qualify as anything insightful or interesting but it exists as another attempt by the film to be culturally relevant.
I did generally dislike the film; however, I commend Poland for making their first slasher film! Hopefully, they learn from it and continue to create something unique for themselves rather than feeling the need to lean on American tropes
While a mediocre attempt at a slasher, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight suffers from a distinct lack of ambition to be more than a carbon copy of much better films made before it, a specific Wrong Turn 2 throwback being the most egregious. I think with a tighter script, more focused characters, and a firmer choice on tonal direction, this film could have been a solid foreign slasher. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s worth your time to catch it. Instead of watching, take the film’s advice: go outside and get off your damn phone!
Overall Score? 4.5/10