Boyz in the Wood, the feature debut of music video director Ninian Doff, combines the energy of his shortform work with a boisterous “stalked in the woods” scenario. The result is a hilariously high-voltage lark through the Scottish Highlands.
Four boys are set loose in the middle of nowhere to compete for the Duke of Edinburgh Camping Award (a real thing!), designed to put these at-risk youth on the straight and narrow path. Three of them — Duncan, Dean, and an aspiring rapper who calls himself D.J. Beatroot — are too gangsta for this nonsense. They are accompanied by Ian, an idealistic, home-schooled youth who tries to keep them focused on the task at hand.
As they attempt to follow a rather confusing map and complete their mission, they gradually come to realize that they are being pursued by a psycho with a rifle and his equally bonkers wife.
They also meet a colorful group of natives along the way, including elderly stoners who show them how to put the “high” in Highlands. The happy folk also know about D.J. Beatroot — a result of his endless self-promotion — and he basks in his newfound celebrity.
Doff’s film is fast, noisy, vulgar, and funny. Never taking itself seriously for one moment, Boyz in the Wood‘s job is to knock down as many genre clichés as possible while taking some well-aimed jabs at classism. And there are no woods — the trees have all been cut down in the name of progress.
The cast is more than up to the task. The bad’uns are well-played by Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, and Viraj Juneja. With his cherubic features, Samuel Bottomley is quietly amusing as the innocent Ian, who becomes the unlikely leader of the slipshod group.
Comedian Eddie Izzard has a field day portraying “the Duke,” a serial killer who wears a half-mask that seems to be made of flesh. He’s a character straight out of The Most Dangerous Game — an aristocrat who seeks to rid society of “vermin.”
They’re all pursued by a couple of clueless police officers (Kate Dickie and Kevin Guthrie) whose misinterpretations of events continually send them off on false leads.
Doff’s energetically eccentric visual style is set to good use here, especially in the drug-addled scenes. He also slips in a riotous music video to introduce Beatroot happily rapping about his generous endowment.
The Scottish locations are gorgeously lensed by Patrick Meller, and Alex Menzies provides the appropriately anarchic score. The kinetic editing is executed by Doff and Ross Hallard.
Boyz in the Wood was reviewed Mar. 8, 2019, at the Stateside Theater in Austin, TX.