Reviewed by Evil Andy
Starring Gary Oldman, Paddy Considine, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Virginie Ledoyen
Directed by Koldo Serra
I have to tell ya, I just don’t get why everyone is reviewing The Backwoods as if it’s a horror film. Sure Deliverance is normally lumped in with our genre, but I have yet to see a horror geek gush over Straw Dogs; great movie or not. Since The Backwoods is essentially a condensed version of Peckinpah’s seminal 1971 film about a meek American discovering his inner warrior when his wife and his home are threatened on foreign soil. The Backwoods takes virtually the same premise, albeit played a different way (The Backwoods is not a siege film), and does an admirable job of eliciting a genuine Seventies look and feel. The recently neutered may find the horrors of their emasculation reflected in The Backwoods, but other horror fans need not apply.
That said, there’s much to recommend The Backwoods, just not as a horror film. The acting is top notch, the performances effectively informing the subtle power dynamics and sexual relationships on display. Dracula himself, Gary Oldman plays Paul, the mustachioed alpha male recently moved to Northern Spain where he renovates his own house, hunts his own food, and makes raucous love to his wife Isabel (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon from The Machinist). The counterpoint to this feisty but stable relationship is city boy Norman (Paddy Constantine of Hot Fuzz), who can’t even bring himself to shoot a rabbit and whose wife Lucy (Virginie Ledoyen of The Beach) has lost all interest in him, except as a target for her frequent humiliations.
When Paul and Norman find a deformed girl locked up in a desolate farmhouse (not altogether dissimilar from Castle Freak if we’re stretching for horror comparisons!), they decide to bring her to the police, setting in motion violent retribution at the hands of the locals responsible for her imprisonment.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, a large portion of the film chronicles Norman’s discovery of his capacity for violence, and how once unearthed, how difficult it can be to re-bury it. There’s a timely political statement at the heart of the film as well, regarding foreigners trying to help and how that help can be misguided when they lack understanding of local culture and customs.
The Backwoods is filled with horrific things; deformed children, murder, rape, and shitty relationships in decline. However, despite the extremely impressive last act thunderstorm that would be fitting for a Gothic horror film, The Backwoods is not a horror movie. Fans of subtle relationship flicks that lead unrelentingly towards rape and murder could do worse though, especially if you haven’t already seen Straw Dogs. If you’re looking for a shockingly authentic 70’s experience, take a trip to The Backwoods; the shotgun toting locals are waiting…
3 out of 5
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