The Legend of Harrow Woods is about a group of students who visit a haunted forest called Harrow Woods in New England for a weekend vacation to investigate the disappearance of horror novelist George Carney and his family who went missing presumed dead two years earlier led by lecturer Karl Mathers. The group of students embark on their investigation to learn that the forest has more horrors to offer then first realised as they discover that in the 17th Century the infamous witch Lenore Selwyn was burnt at the stake within Harrow Woods. As she struggled against the flames she cursed the very land that her ashes fell upon. With the knowledge of this information the group are murdered one by one on their weekend of horrors.
The Legend of Harrow Woods (2008)
- The Legend of Harrow Woods review by NP
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Here’s fun: a horror film starring Rik Mayall, Robin Askwith, Christopher Walken, Norman Wisdom and Jason Donovan. It appears to have three titles. Apart from the above, this has also been known as Evil Calls and Alone in the Dark (not least on the DVD extras). Investigating this online, the film seems to have a real-life history just as bizarre as anything contained in the fiction.
My guess is that Harrow Woods is actually two films spliced together to create a rather delirious whole. The bulk of it is set in Harrow Woods, New England (inexplicably meaning that the predominantly British cast – as well as Donovan – have to struggle with wavering American accents), while there are the scenes set mainly in a hotel washroom that feature Mayall, Askwith, Wisdom and Richard Driscoll. Driscoll wrote, directed and produced this, as well as starred in it, just as he did in his other two released films.
With a few more plot explanations, this would have been a much more enjoyable exercise. However, it seems Driscoll isn’t overly concerned with clarifying every single plot point – something I have no problem with usually. But there is too much left unsaid. Walken’s contribution is a narrated reading of Poe’s The Raven over many early scenes – but (apart from brief flashes of raven eyes in segue-ways between various scenes) there seems to be no relevance between this and anything we actually see.
Mayall and Wisdom appear to be playing versions of the same character; they have identical dialogue which they share with Driscoll’s character, George Carney. And it is the disappearance of Carney that propels the story. He appears to have stayed in a hotel that was built on a site of land where a witch was burned to death many years ago, and her ‘spell’ fuels his paranoia (that leads to a Jack Torrance-like madness) that his wife is having an affair with the character played by Robin Askwith. This is not plainly detailed, we have to work to come to this conclusion, amidst impressive scenes of sepia-toned parties, gallons of blood, a demon baby and plenty of topless women. Oh, and some old feller watching events on a computer screen who doesn’t have anything to do with anything. And this is the problem – there’s too much going on here, as if there were too many ideas being injected into the production. If some of these ideas had been left for another film, and more time allowed to clarify what is actually going on here, then this would have been compelling. Some skilful production values are on show here, it’s a shame they couldn’t have been streamlined to create a more coherent whole. And not insisting on American accents that drag down many of the cast’s performances would help too.
The Legend of Harrow Woods took a long time to complete. Almost ten years in fact. And clearly it has been a labour of love for Driscoll, who returned to the project regularly when finances allowed, to insert extra footage and moments that both clarify and further obfuscate the narrative. The ending suggests that none of the events in the film have actually happened yet, which doesn’t help make sense of anything.