Driving with his family to visit relatives over Christmas, a father decides to take a different route than normal, after becoming bored and feeling tired at the wheel. But as the road through the forest seems to continue without ending, bizarre and frightening events start to happen. Several creepy and intriguing elements are introduced as recurring themes - a woman in white carrying a baby, a sinister black car, an abandoned pram, etc - which give the family (and the viewer) teasing clues to what is going on, which is not fully revealed until the end.
The main strength of the film is the dark, oppressive atmosphere. Despite the vast, sprawling size of the forest, the darkness and the sense of being unable to escape create a claustrophobic feel. The use of car headlights, car interior light, or matches as lighting sources, adds to the building tension. There is also an impressive score of choral background music. Gore effects are done well, but used sparingly. Much of the visual horror is implied rather than shown, by the camera focusing on one detail, or on the onlookers' reactions. I thought this was surprisingly effective, and I was impressed at how the film relies on tension and atmosphere to create fear, rather than jump shocks or grisly make-up. The performances from Ray Wise and Lin Shaye as the parents are excellent, and in fact all the main actors are very good, particularly as the mental state of individual characters starts to break down. The film also has nice touches of humour, which seem to pop up when you least expect them, and caused me to laugh out loud more than once.
Overall I found this a creepy and intriguing film, which completely hooked me in. Even if you think you can guess the big twist at the end, it's still worth watching, and certainly wouldn't put me off watching it again in the future. 5/5