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The Thrilling Slasher Movie That's Killing It On Netflix

Horror films have taken a turn for the arty over the last few years. Movies like The Witch, Hereditary, and Get Out combine unnerving scares, gasp-inducing gore, gorgeous filmmaking, and esoteric musings about some of the big questions of the day. It's an exciting direction for the genre, but sometimes, don't you just want to see a good old-fashioned slaughterfest?

Enter Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight, an homage to slasher films of the '80s (but with a clever modern twist) that comes to us from Poland. This stylish and gruesome thriller was added to Netflix just in time for Halloween, and it clearly got viewers into the spirit of the season. At the time of writing, it was on the list of the top ten most viewed movies on the platform.

If you're looking to take a break from the Midsommar of it all, then Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight could be just the bloody ticket. Here's what you need to know about this Polish slasher film that's murdering the competition on Netflix.

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight has a classic slasher setup with a contemporary twist

Other than the legitimate fear of being murdered by a psychotic killer, the real horror of slasher flicks is the seemingly unstoppable nature of their killers. For the genre to work well, the film must introduce a group of victims into a situation in which they are unable to escape or get help, and a hunter who is able to overpower and/or outsmart them at every turn. This formula can be difficult to pull off in the 21st century, considering everyone has a device in their pocket that can summon help in mere moments. But Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight manages a clever workaround.

The movie takes place at a technology detox camp for teenagers where electronic devices are strictly forbidden. In the middle of the woods in Poland without your cellphone, nobody can hear you scream. After introducing viewers to the main characters — clever and determined Zoisa (Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz), hunky Daniel (Sebastian Dela), and introverted Julek (Michal Lupa), among other teen cliches — we see them come face to horrifying face with two brothers who live deep in the forest. Without spoiling too much, let's just say that the antagonists in the film borrow more from The Hills Have Eyes than Scream.

The campground setup and monstrous appearance of the killers are tropes that any fan of horror movies will recognize. Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight's penchant for playing into hallmarks of the genre is something that didn't go unnoticed by critics, for better or worse.

Critics liked the film's style, but didn't think it had enough substance

You may be shocked to hear that The New York Times hasn't gotten around to reviewing Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight. Still, the film has received reviews elsewhere. Many critics who saw it had a similar takeaway: it's a well-made movie that could have used a bit more originality.

John Serba of Decider gave the film a mostly negative review, but did admit, "Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight looks terrific: Solid cinematography and camerawork, some choice practical effects and makeup, suitably gloomy set pieces, a sufficiently synthy Carpenter-homage score and a couple of nifty kills." However, Serba ultimately felt that "unlike modern arthouse horror outings, it lacks any kind of resonant subtext."

Digital Spy's Ian Sandwell found the movie's purposeful nostalgia more rewarding, although they did agree that it didn't offer up enough of a twist on the formula. "[I]f somebody told you it was a lost movie from the 1980s, you wouldn't be surprised," Sandwell wrote. "That's a compliment as if you're going to adhere to convention, you better do it well and that's exactly what Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight does."

Spooky film aficionado Karina Adelgaard gave the movie a positive review at Heaven of Horror. She called the movie "a very honest tribute to American slasher films as well as other iconic genre movies," while arguing that it successfully managed to blend tropes from many different types of slasher films, such as Friday the 13th and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The film's '80s horror throwbacks were no accident. In fact, a sendup to the days of old is exactly what the director of Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight set out to do.

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight was always intended to be an homage to '80s slasher flicks

Director Bartosz M. Kowalski grew up in Poland and had a huge love of '80s American horror films when he was a kid. During an interview with The First News, Kowalski said, "I grew up watching these kinds of movies on VHS... secretly renting them from stores when I was ten or eleven. Maniac Cop must have been the first one I watched, and while it's certainly not the greatest film ever made, it left a huge impression."

This affection followed him to his career as a filmmaker and mingled with his disappointment that there wasn't a similar horror tradition in his homeland of Poland. The director noted, "It's always bothered me that I was never able to watch a Polish horror when I was growing up... and that's because they simply didn't exist. I never understood that."

For him, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight isn't just an homage to what he refers to as the "real purity" of slasher flicks, but also a possible new chapter in the Polish film scene. He explained, "[I]t wasn't just an experiment for me, but also for the producers and investors; seeing this genre was non-existent in Poland, there had never been a standard set before in terms of financing."

According to The First News, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight went to number one on Polish Netflix when it was released, and considering it's now in the top ten on Netflix U.S., it seems that there are many people who are on board with Kowalski's mission.