I've done a lot of cross-country diving recently, and though I do love a good coastal route, nothing compares to the beauty, majesty, and isolation found on the mountain road. That might be why I can't help but be drawn to movies that take place in the woods.
In It Waits, Danny is also drawn to the woods, and takes up a posting as a park ranger in some remote corner of the US. She spends her days drinking in her tower, wallowing in guilt and grief over the loss of her best friend. Her kindly boss and understanding boyfriend take turns checking in on her, but Danny would just prefer to be left alone. And then something else comes calling.
During a field trip into the woods, a group of grad students awakens a monster that makes short work of the lot of them. Loose on the mountain, the creature is drawn to Danny, and takes great pleasure in stalking her and murdering everyone with whom she comes into contact. Scared sober, Danny has to shake off her guilt long enough to fight her way off the mountain.
It Waits has all the makings of a good backwoods horror movie, trading in cannibal hillbillies for a Native American monster of legend. The awesome mystery inspired by the forest, and the isolation of the backwoods, work together to create an atmosphere of solace, and later on, dread. However, the film's complete lack of subtext leaves very little to the imagination.
It's unfortunate that It Waits is not the subtle freak out that it can, indeed, should be. Rather, all characters speak their minds all the time and admit to things that might be better left unsaid. This expositional dialogue finds its parallel in equally frank directing. To begin with, we glimpse the monster at the very beginning, so there's little to be surprised by later on. Also, Danny's tragic past is constantly rehashed and revisited through flashback, so much so, that it becomes tiresome and fails to elicit any sympathy.
Thankfully, Danny doesn't waste anytime dealing with the monster, but the introduction of potentially useful information late in the story creates an expectation in us that is never satisfied, and the end, when it comes, seems to happen too soon. The addition of the usual horror tropes, dropping lighters and getting caught on something, makes the final showdown frustrating instead of tense.
The monster is reminiscent of the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers, and, sadly is featured on the box art, further stripping away the movie's thin layers of mystery and intrigue. That having been said, I did actually enjoy this film. There is some clever camera work, good sound, and I was suitably freaked out a couple of times. It's just that the film, I think, had a lot of potential. It could have been a quiet, frightening story about how a woman deals with and confronts her secret guilt, but is instead a good-looking, albeit unsubtle, creature feature.