Bartosz Kowalski’s W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) works neither as a proper homage to the vintage, nor an inventive satire on its themes. Sadly, it’s not even remotely entertaining either.
Alexandre Aja, director of Crawl (2019), once said that ‘In Europe, there is no horror movie. It’s very hard to make a slasher or gory movie. There is no audience for that.‘
Admittedly, horror has been the domain of American and Asian cinema. Indeed, the argument could be made that European moviegoers were spoiled by the foreign influx. That, however, shouldn’t mean that in-house productions are all trash. Thanks to people such as Robert Eggers, Ari Aster, Julia Ducournau and Ben Wheatley, horror fans in Europe begin to get choosy too. So, in order to make the headlines, you really have to push the envelope.
Polish director Bartosz Kowalski couldn’t stray further away from that goal.
What is W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) about and who are the characters?
The plot of W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) takes place in a camp for teenagers addicted to phones, gaming and other evil inventions of our century. After a brief, but ceremonial drill, the kids are divided into groups. That’s how our protagonists meet – a bunch of stereotypical characters who serve one obvious purpose for Kowalski. Therefore, we got a dumb influencer-kind girl, a secretly-but-so-obviously-gay boy and – my personal favorite – a chubby gamer type. In all that mess, the only character worth of Kowalski’s attention is Zosia (Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz).
Unsurprisingly, most of these kids aren’t given much depth. Not because they have nothing to offer though, but due to the script that turns them redundant. And since every kitschy horror needs an anchor for its dumb plot, W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) implements one as well.
Kowalski’s anchor is an almost mute character Zosia. She’s played by Polish juvenile celebrity Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz, whose bland, uninterested face speaks volumes about the whole film. Furthermore, it’s also her poorly developed arch, which doesn’t help the inexperienced actress build a role worth investing in. And since that’s the only emotional leverage up Bartosz Kowalski’s sleeve, you get the picture.
Is the gore any good in W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020)?
Let’s be honest – nobody watches slashers for agitated debates on the meaning of life or character development. If anything, it’s the bloodshed that counts.
The gore and scares in W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) are stylistically close to the Wrong Turn movies. It’s largely over-the-top, with bodies cut in two, beaten up against a tree and minced.
So, the blood’s there, but style isn’t.
That too leaves W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) far from modern masterpieces. Thee visible budget constraints play their part here, yet a few horrors succeeded despite facing similar issues. Look at Creep (2015), and the legendary The Blair Witch project (1999) to grasp what I’m getting there. These films were brilliant in avoiding the formulaic paths. For Bartosz Kowalski, sticking his head out means leaving his comfort zone. And the director is clearly not ready for that kind of commitment.
The cultural context in W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) is lost
None of that, and I mean it, would be so frustrating if Kowalski managed to embrace the story’s setting.
Being Polish myself, I know how provocative W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) could have been. Frankly, breadcrumbs of cultural nuances are left here and there – like a freaky priest and his anti-gay quest (which instantly reminded me of Red State (2007) by Kevin Smith). These rare moments tend to glisten, but immediately drown in an ocean of blandness too.
Eventually, this entire effort is just as fruitless as this camp that tries to convert kids from online to offline. One tedious slasher won’t change the European horror game. But in the of W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) case, that actually may be a good thing.
W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020) – Culturally Loved or Hated?
Obviously, it’s the latter. This is a terribly uninspired, frustratingly repetitive slasher movie that has no real impact on the viewer.
W Lesie Dziś Nic Zaśnie Nikt (2020)
Director: Bartosz Kowalski
Writers: Bartosz Kowalski, Jan Kwieciński, Mirella Zaradkiewicz
Starring: Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz, Michał Lupa, Wiktoria Gąsiewska, Piotr Cyrwus
Cinematography: Cezary Stolecki
Music: Radzimir Dębski
Where to watch: Netflix