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Backwoods (2008)

Backwoods (click for larger image)Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Ryan Merriman, Haylie Duff, Danny Nucci, Mark Rolston, Deborah Van Valkenburgh

Directed by Marty Weiss


Paintball – it’s a fun way to spend a weekend and, supposedly, a great team building exercise for corporate types. But have you ever noticed that 9 out of 10 times when people go into the woods to play paintball in a movie it ends in carnage? It’s like paintball has become to the go-to sport for horror filmmakers of late. Kids, if you want to live, just say “no” to paintball.

All the trouble in the Spike TV original movie Backwoods begins when the head of a video game firm decides they all need to go out into the woods to play some paintball for the good of the company. The group consists of the obnoxious young business leader, the annoying young guy in the FBI hat, the dweeby young guy who wants to get into Haylie Duff’s pants, and young Haylie Duff who is tired of her young co-workers gossiping about her and the other young guy trying to get into her pants. People trying to get into Haylie Duff’s pants will actually be something of a running theme, especially once she’s captured and tied up for potential breeding stock.

Oh, there’s also a young black guy, a young Asian guy, and another young blonde chick with “fuck meat” written all over her thrown into the mix. I believe there might have been another young person or two with short life expectancies I’m overlooking.

Now I realize the people who design video games are usually younger than say the old coots that run the oil industry, but still, the oldest looking people in this group appeared to only be in their early 30’s. Given their lack of maturity and surprising lack of intelligence given their supposed line of work, if the script had just said they were college kids in the woods looking for a fun paintball outing you’d have never known they were supposed to be post-college professionals.

There be inbreeds in these woods and inbreeds be horny and homicidal. They also happen to be a religious cult – I think. Or they could be something along the lines of the Montana militia. The screenwriter never seemed to fully make up his mind what they were supposed to be so he instead he tried making them all of the above while leaving the details as vague as possible. We learn next to nothing about their religious faith or their hatred for the federal government or what exactly they’re manufacturing in their underground bunker, and their need for fresh babymakers seems dubious as well since they’re not exactly short in numbers. If they’re supposed to be an anti-government militia then they really ought to invest in better rifles and fewer bows & arrows. Though I will say this, Backwoods does have what I believe to be the first ever drive-by bow & arrowing that I can recall.

Deborah Van Valkenburgh plays “Mother”, the head of the clan. You might remember her as Ted Knight’s brunette daughter on the early 80’s sitcom “Too Close For Comfort”. I mostly remember her being a lot younger. Now she looks like a slightly cleaned up version of the crazy old hag from The Final Terror and her role consists of muttering vaguely pseudo-religious mumbo jumbo about a need to keep things pure.

By “pure” she seems to mean having her gigantic mongoloid son impregnate any females they happen to capture. Most of the members of the clan just look a bit on the ratty side, not inbred. But Mother’s baby boy, he happens to be a hulking inbred powerhouse who looks like one of the Lake Dead brothers jacked-up on steroids; fitting, given he already dresses like a WWE wrestler.

On the other hand, the “father” of the group comes across less like an inbred hillbilly and more like a paranoid militia leader. Actually, given his personality and the actor’s poor man’s R. Lee Ermey impersonation, he comes across more like an extremely high-strung high school football coach. Like most of the characters in this film, he’s also dumb as a post. The guy actually believes these paintballers who have invaded their woods are all FBI agents come to bust them ala Randy Weaver and the paintballs are a government chemical weapon.

Aside from the complete failure of the screenplay to flesh out the villains and decide whether or not the film wants to be a survival horror movie or a Deliverance-style action thriller, damn is this movie little more than a series of tired clichés strung together. Stock characters, stock scenarios, stock outcomes, I don’t expect 100% originality but I do expect more than a poorly written film that feels like it was assembled Mad Libs-style.

Compounding problems, the biggest problem, the direction only accentuates the lackluster screenplay. Just because a movie is a composite of other films doesn’t mean it still can’t be done in a fairly entertaining fashion. Fat chance here. Flatly directed even by made-for-cable standards, Backwoods fails to deliver the most basic level of visceral horror one should expect from this kind of movie and given the themes of the film are rape and kill, the degree of gore and sexual titilation is also far less than you’d expect from a film such as this.

Have you ever seen Deliverance, Wrong Turn, Wrong Turn 2, The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Severance, or Lake Dead? If you have then you’ve got no reason to ever want to see Backwoods and if you haven’t then you’ve got six similar films to choose from that do it better than this seriously weak retread. Yes, even Lake Dead.


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1 out of 5

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