BRIGHTWOOD (2023) Film Review

Picture Courtesy of Cinephobia

THE GOOD: It’s gotten googobs of good reviews and has played at a lot of film fests and is scheduled to be release August 22, Tuesday, on VOD. THE BAD: It got a lot of topsy-turvy mixed reviews. THE UGLY: It got some bad reviews – but no one has dare to come out and say don’t see this movie.

My take for WORD patrons on Director-Writer-Cinematographer Dane Elcar’s 80 minutes of moviemaking: Damn the (cinephobia) torpedoes, full speed ahead to see this movie more than once. {That see a movie more than once is pretty much always a good sign.}

Director-Screenwriter-Cinematographer: Dane Elcar
Cast: Max Woertendyke, Dana Berger
Producers: Dane Elcar, Max Woertendyke
Editor: Torrence Red
Music: Jason Cook (aka Boys Hotel). Smart minimalistic film score that accentuates without intruding.

Synoptic Film Review

BRIGHTWOOD opens with a jogging, garrulous Dan (Max Woertendyke), who is in poor shape, lagging behind his wife, Jen (Dana Berger) who is in better shape than he’s in. Both are in a pissy mood though Jen is in a higher dudgeon as they cruise along a trail that circles the local pond. Dan and Jen have been married 9 years. No kids, no regrets. Both are addicted to porn because their sex lives suck, they tell each other.

At some point, Jen unleashes a volley of rebukes that her hubbie is a schmuck alcoholic who smells like decomposing flesh, has foul breath from rotting teeth -– and his toenails “are fucking disgusting.”

In another scene, she tells him she thinks about stabbing him in the neck.

After several minutes of jogging, anticipating returning home from their morning run, Dan and Jen discover that they can’t find the exit site to home as they have regularly done, that they repeatedly end up returning to the same spot near a no-fishing sign. They are trapped in the repeating vortex of an inexplicable, befuddling phenomenon – a looping, warped space-time continuum though they don’t call it that – and their panic builds.

Picture Courtesy of Cinephobia

[Hint – FYI for WORD patrons: The space-time continuum consists of four dimensions: the three dimensions of space (length, width, and height … or up/down, left/right, and forward/backward, plus the fourth dimension of time. Einstein’s theories of relativity spurred other scientists to investigate the relationships between space and time.]

They subsequently encounter versions of themselves running amuck (because of the blossoming warped time-space continuum, but their moods eventually shift over time spent in their cosmic conundrum. They move from being alarmed to being astonished and surprised to bitter, wisecracking bewilderment about their frustrating situation – though they get rattled whenever they see a sinister, hooded person(s) in their vicinity (who, it, they, whatever, eventually comes after them with an ax).

All that, of course, for this reviewer adds up to this: BRIGHTWOOD is an inventive cocktail mix with pinches and dashes of of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone (1959 to 1964), The Outer Limits episodes (1963-1965) and strokes of Theater of the Absurd (a source for plays, movies and TV series 1940 to 1960, thereabouts). Director-Writer Dane Elcar’s cinematic elan suggests her preference for more theater of the absurd, vintage 2023.  Her muse draws on a brew of genres and sub-genres of black comedy, slapstick, sci-fi, the horrific and the ghoulish – and more.

Yet, Elcar writes on her Instagram Page that she made a movie about relationships {Click Here.}

When this reviewer-writer first screened BRIGHTWOOD – it really has to be seen more than once – and was squirming and fidgeting at times about the length of what I initially regarded as sluggish, almost boring scenes, it was the segues in a blink of an eye, like a jog that suddenly becomes a 100-yard sprint, that opened my eyes that there was more to BRIGHTWOOD than I was making sense of at the time. The pugilistic, verbal squabbling and wrangling between Dan and Jen – don’t forget the subliminal and supraliminal threats – suggests that BRIGHTWOOD is thematically metaphysical, reflecting on the angst and alienation of these times because of COVID, OMICRON, Trump-ism and other existential angst.

Picture Courtesy of Cinephobia

Last, but not least, there is ax-swinging gore pulled from the script pages of FRIDAY THE 13TH but not necessarily gratuitous nor graphic, and, yeah, I rate this a must-see.

Click here, if you want, for a podcast sidebar with an interview of the filmmakers.


Gregg W. Morris can be reached at,