***WARNING SPOILER ALERT***
The Woods is a 2006 horror film, produced by Furst Films and United Artists, starring Agnes Bruckner and Patricia Clarkson. Set in 1965, the film centers on a rebellious young girl, Heather, who is taken by her parents to a boarding school for girls. The school is located in the middle of a dense forest, utterly secluded from the outside world. Adding to the eeriness of the setting, the teachers who work at the school all behave in a variety of odd ways. Each of them displays an unnervingly calm countenance in any and every situation, as well as physical deformations, ailments, or tics unique to each woman. Very much an outcast in her previous life, Heather settles in and even makes friends, despite the predations of the school bully. However, strange things begin to occur and the strong-minded Heather becomes determined to find out what is happening and protect her newfound friends. She learns an old ghost story about the school from her classmates: apparently when the school was first opened it was taken over by three sisters, witches, who enslaved their peers and murdered the headmistress before disappearing into the woods. Although she initially pays the story no attention, Heather soon discovers that the tale is very much a reality after girls begin to disappear from their beds at night, nothing but piles of leaves left in their place. As it turns out, the school is still run by the witches who are now plotting to use the student body of the school as vessels to be possessed by the spirits of the forest, which they worship. Despite their plotting and supernatural powers, the witches are defeated and killed in the end by Heather who becomes a hero by resisting them and saving her friends from possession by tree spirits.
Now, I know a horror movie may seem like a stretch for an environmental studies assignment, but let me explain. What I see in this movie is a demonstration of an anthropocentric worldview that demonizes the natural world in order to make it a viable antagonist for the story. Although the witches that run the school are the most active and visible villains in The Woods, they are acting on behalf of the spirits of the forest that they serve. So, really the trees are behind it all. In an anthropocentric worldview, nature is viewed as something to be controlled and manipulated for the use of humanity. The premise of The Woods is: what if nature sought to control and manipulate us for its own use? Any threat to human life is naturally going to be viewed as evil and something to be feared by humans, and tree demons trying to steal a bunch of teenage girls’ bodies ranks high on the list of hypothetical threats to human life. More than that, the film assumes that the trees have an active desire to become human, implying that humanity enjoys the highest quality of life on Earth in comparison to the countless species that also occupy it. My point is that, if we were living in a culture that was fundamentally eco-centric, this movie would never have been made because it wouldn’t have made much sense. An eco-centric worldview sees intrinsic value in everything that belongs to the natural world, and places humans at an equivalent level of importance as every other species that resides on the planet. In an eco-centric culture, a forest would not be demonized as body snatchers and witches because its place in its ecosystem would be fully understood and appreciated by the audience. As well, a person with an eco-centric worldview may be confused as to why a tree would want to become a teenage girl in the 1960s.
Hopefully this isn’t too much of a stretch, as I’m also posting this late! It’s a great movie if you’re into horror and I would highly recommend!