THE GIRL IN THE WOODS: An Indie Horror-Mystery Gem from Azerbaijan

Theatrical Poster for THE GIRL IN THE WOODS

Theatrical Poster for THE GIRL IN THE WOODS – Fair Use asserted

Small and obscure film blogs get a lot of small and obscure films sent to them for review. That’s just the way it works. In the past, when I ran other websites, many of these submissions were — well — not so good (and often did not get reviewed – I don’t like to slaughter other people’s work). However, since I’ve rebooted Loud Green Bird in its current format and on a new URL, I’ve been surprised at the quality of the films I’ve received so far. Case in point: THE GIRL IN THE WOODS (2015), a short by Angry Student Productions that was sent to me by writer-director Tofiq Rzayev. It’s a story-driven film that grabbed and held my fascinated attention from its first scene to the last.

Here’s Rzayev’s story summary (from YouTube): “Ali’s friend Mert (Deniz Aslim) and fianceé Ceren (Aybike Sahin) become increasingly more concerned about him after he mysteriously goes missing – the only clues as to his whereabouts being a brief glimpse of him heading into a nearby forest and a strange text message to Mert that simply says ‘Find me’.”

The project is based on Rzayev’s original English screenplay entitled “Find Me.” Rzayev and Erdogan Ulgur (who live and work in Azerbaijan) translated and rewrote this script into a Turkish screenplay that is the basis for “The Girl in the Woods.”

The story is well-written. Essentially a mystery, it uses horror elements effectively without falling into the trap of relying on cliches or worn-out tropes. When Mert searches in the woods for Ali, he does not find him. Instead, he meets a young woman (Cevahir Jashgir) who apparently lives there. A mutual attraction starts to bloom between Mert and the woman; he returns to visit her while continuing to look for Ali. However, the woman’s life in the woods involves more than just enjoying the peaceful solitude of nature. The dark ending is skillfully foreshadowed, although Mert seems immune to picking up on the hints that the woman drops as they talk about their lives.

The film’s cinematography (also by Rzayev) is generally good, especially in the outdoor shooting locations. The editing is excellent, with appropriate and effective transitions between scenes. While the sound quality suffers in a few instances, the musical score (by Gergo Elekes) is very good, supporting the visuals and dialogue without overpowering them. What impressed me the most, however, was the cast. Although it is possible that I am missing problems with dialogue delivery (I don’t speak Turkish and had to depend on the subtitles), I felt that the actors gave their characters more roundedness and depth than I’m used to getting in a short film.

For a brief introduction to the look and feel of the film (which includes English subtitles), watch the trailer below. A word of warning: the trailer does not reveal much about the film’s story. Instead of providing so many spoilers that the audience already knows the story in all of its twists and turns (like many current Hollywood films’ trailers), Rzayev has gone in the opposite direction with his trailer. It reveals the film’s atmosphere rather than its plot. Even its horror elements, which play a key role in the story-line, do not make it into the trailer. 

Running for just under 28 minutes, “The Girl in the Woods” will be released in September. Until the production has a larger presence on social media, follow its IMDb page, Tofiq Rzayev’s YouTube channel, and his Twitter account for updates on the release date and venue. This is a gem of a short indie film that you don’t want to miss. I gave it 6 out of 10 stars on IMDb.

Disclosure: LOUD GREEN BIRD reviewed this film at the request of Tofiq Rzayev, who provided access to an online screener. No financial considerations were involved.