Terrortory (2016)

When they said don’t go in the woods they meant HERE

Writers: Dan Doran, Kevin Kangas, Mark Wenger
Directors: Dan Doran, Kevin Kangas, Mark Wenger

Terrortory is a low budget portmanteau horror movie that deals with the nasty fate that meets people who venture into the titular section of woodland.

The frame for the stories is a couple and their young son renting a house for a weekend away. When the power fails they decide to tell spooky tales about the local area – the Terrortory. Unlike many anthology movies the frame is actually a proper story in its own right, more on that later.

There are five internal stories of which my favourites were first and last.

The first is ‘Siren’ in which a hunter in the woods stumbles across a strange, scantily dressed woman who says only one thing: “Did you bring me meat?” You know where it’s going, but it’s an interesting trip. There’s no real explanation to Siren which might make it frustrating for many, but I enjoyed the weirdness.

That left me with high expectations for the rest of the film, but they were quickly dashed. The second segment, ‘The Prowler’ is based around a group making a bad slasher movie when life starts to imitate art. Unfortunately the real story is as pointless as the one they’re filming. I suspect this segment was meant to be humorous, but I found it annoying rather than funny.

‘Smiling Jack’ has a young couple stalked by a pumpkin headed killer. Things turn out to be not quite what you expect and the killer is certainly interesting. Unfortunately the story doesn’t really do anything with this and ultimately Jack remains just another boogeyman.

‘Drone Collector’ had potential. This time our group of hikers receive dire warnings from a local after which they find themselves observed by a flying drone. This was a good idea that went in a direction I didn’t expect, however whilst the ending was interesting it left me with too many “But… but…” thoughts. This story could definitely have done with starting later and being fleshed out more.

‘Midnight Clown’ I enjoyed a lot – and killer clowns are very topical just now. This is a found footage story about a group making a found footage horror movie. The self-referential irony is played to the full and I found this a lot funnier than The Prowler. It knowingly incorporates many genre tropes and has a very nice ending.

Finally we come to the framing story, ‘Gotz’. We know from the beginning something odd is happening because the house is littered with life size dolls. As the film progresses a masked, knife wielding stalker first observes the couple then threatens them. Things escalate until at the very end the story seems to have written itself into a corner. As a result it resorts to a very unsatisfying cop-out ending, but does redeem itself somewhat with a perfect final shot.

Acting and direction throughout the film are competent without being anything special. Writing is good as far as it goes; one nice feature of most of the stories in Terrortory is that the characters actually respond sensibly – phoning the police, running like hell, etc – but obviously to no avail.

Music is well judged and supports the action without overwhelming it. Unfortunately the general sound quality seems a little flaky at times (and not just at the start of The Prowler where it’s intentional).

So as with most portmanteau films there are some good and some bad sections, and a lot of that will be down to taste. The biggest problem for me with Terrortory is the similarity of the segments.

I don’t mind that they’re all set around ‘people walking in woods’; I can accept that as a constraint of the budget. My problem is that they’re all basically ‘people in woods meet killer’. OK, there are numerous variation on the killer, but the stories are mostly just slashers with little depth or thematic development: characters meet x, x kills characters. As a result some good ideas felt wasted.

If you’re a fan of the slasher sub-genre then there’s a good selection here, personally I wanted more variety.