Don’t go into the woods. This is a cautionary warning which should be issued at the beginning of all horror movies. Nothing good ever happens in the woods. And yet cinema continues to make the “freaking trees” a setting, There are many reasons, not the least is how successful the trees are in creating disorientation. Depending on how expansive the woods are, under a spreading canopy of leaf-covered branches, with similarly appearing trees like tent poles supporting the sky-cover obscuring the skies and blocking the sun anchored at the base, there is no way of getting your bearings or determining where you are.
When a group of strangers awakens deep in the forest, they come to the realization that they have no idea where they are. How did they get there? But of this, they observe: they are all dressed the same, and all have a numbered tattoo on their forearms. And they are now being hunted by a black-dressed ninja-like killer with a mask enveloping his face. Who is this? How is it that all of these people have been brought together into the woods? What more do these apparent strangers have in common?
This is the premise of Jeff Kapp’s thriller Scapegoat. Lost deep in the woods, these strangers have to run to avoid the killer’s arrows. Written by Jeff Kapp, Shane Schanski, and Noah Watkins, this fast-paced thriller/horror story is not your conventional slasher flick. Despite the strangers being killed off one by one, this story does not rely on blood, guts, and gore alone to convey a shock and horror that will send shudders down your spine.
As the movie opens, Gabe (Mason Heidger ) is running, terrified. Encountering Owen (Heath Sartorius ), the two have an explosive argument, that is until they are both targeted by the hunter. They take off on foot, maneuvering through the trees. They come upon Mark (Jimmie Chiappelli ). As they do, an arrow pierces Mark’s chest. He collapses, dead. Next, they encounter Matt (Patrick Harney) who saves them from the first attack by the killer. Off again, they find Jayme (Katie Dufort) and Dale (Timothy Bates Jr.). They come upon Sam (Shad Moore) wounded and slumping against a tree. As Sam struggles to regain consciousness, the first thing Sam points out is the cryptic tattoos on each of their arms. With an almost encyclopedic knowledge of scripture, chapter and verse, Sam identifies each of these letter prefaced-numbers as a sin for which these people are accused. But how is it they find themselves in the woods and what else do these strangers share in common?
Under the dark of night, sitting around a campfire, each of the strangers identifies themselves and offers a cursory explanation of what these tats mean. Gabe is an expelled from the Academy, third generation police officer. Matt is a fellow police officer who had covered for Gabe twice. Dale is a married man who is cheating on his wife. And Jayme was a baby-sitter with whom Dale was cheating. Sinners all, they have been marked for death. But why? And by whom? Thus, the tagline, “Sometimes we all have to pay.”
Though Scapegoat has holes in the storyline which are not addressed, asking the viewer to suspend reason, it effectively presents flashbacks by which this could have been achieved. Props should also be given to Jeff Kapp who does triple-duty in creating this indie thriller. As well as directing this debut effort, he doubles as the camera-man before the production is complete, (cinematographer Noah Watkins moved to Georgia before principal filming wrapped though he did shoot the woods and bar scenes); Jeff also filled in as one of the thugs seen in the bar scene. During these periods, Shane Schanski served as first assistant director.
Credit should be given to all the actors, with the most notable performances delivered by Mason Heidger, Patrick Harney, and Heath Sartorius. All performances were strong and credible. One of the breath-taking performances, without a doubt, was delivered by Dakota Jarrad. Though little information can be found about Jarrod, he choreographs a fight scene that was a complete knock-out punch. Kudos should also be given to award-winning, classically trained Kaizad Patel, who skillfully composed the musical score for Scapegoat. Though he has since created the soundtrack for other Michigan indie productions, Scapegoat was his first. Kaizad Patel hails from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
From its heart-thumping opening scene to its dramatic, surprise closing, Scapegoat is a non-stop thriller that drills down into your psyche while you sit spell-bound by what you are watching.
Scapegoat is a Vigilant Entertainment film, distributed by Nandar Entertainment.