by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday November 28, 2017


Imagine that the supernatural entities haunting the woods outside of "Twin Peaks" were more melancholy than menacing, and Kirsten Dunst fluttered among them like an airy angel of death. That's the feeling you might get from "Woodshock," the debut feature from sisters Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy.

Dunst plays Theresa, a woman who lives in redwood country with her logger husband Nick (Joe Cole). While Nick is off cutting trees down, Theresa is wandering among their towering majesty -- at least in a dream state brought on by brief puffs and quick tastes of the poison-laced marijuana cigarettes she rolls. She has an endless supply of weed at her disposal, working as she does at a marijuana dispensary run by her affectionate boss, Keith (Pilou Asbśkher). The poison, which she keeps in a vial, is a special ingredient reserved for the shop's most rarefied clientele -- people living with terminal illnesses who would prefer a dignified exit, such as the suffering Ed (Steph DuVall) or, closer to home, Theresa's own mother (Susan Traylor).

It's with the death of Theresa's mother that the film commences, and the suggestion is that Theresa's hazy, nebulous sensory and cognitive disarray stems at least as much from grief as it does from drugs. Though she's deeply in mourning, her lethal services are still in demand, and when a special batch of killer weed goes to the wrong customer by mistake, her shock and despair become overwhelming. For a while, Theresa really does seem like an angel of death -- and like any angel of stirring myth she rises, hovers, and falls.

The film surges and sweeps with light and distorted imagery, some of which successfully communicates Theresa's internal state of mind and emotional turmoil, and some of which simply resembles poorly spliced-in home movies. (Peter Flinckenberg masterminds the cinematography.) The film's score, by Peter Raeburn, adds immeasurably to the atmospherics, even if on occasion the mood slips form ethereal to bargain-bin New Agey synth.

Like Theresa's deadly potion, "Woodshock" works best in small doses. At a running time of 100 minutes, though, the movie feels interminable; rather than soaring and sinking with the increasingly erratic and unstrung Theresa, one might find oneself identifying with her concerned and watchful mate, Nick, who flits around the film's margins, increasingly anxious and with an evanescent presence. Nothing about this film feels concrete or certain -- not to what degree Theresa's visions are real, nor her nightmares, nor even her (sometimes somnambulatory) episodes of acting out. In the end, as Theresa's visions seem to wind into themselves, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the audience is even viewed as necessary, let alone invited to participate.

This Blu-ray edition offers one special feature, an interview with Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy, who explain that the film's setting was inspired by the redwood forest that was their childhood stomping grounds, and offer their recollections on the film's production, working with Dunst, and the contributions of the crew.






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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.