Starring Isabella Alberti, Jeremy Sande, and Erin Lilley
Written by Erin Lilley and Thomas Smith
Directed by Thomas Smith
Throughout the 1980s and into the 2000s, there has been a visual sundry of interesting findings in the arenas of the dark, wooded and swampy unknowns. From films such as The Evil Dead (1981 and its remake in 2013), Madman (1981), and Hatchet (2006) reveal the scenarios of the young and foolish going off into a dark and foreboding environment because of some party or any unnamed folly they choose which results in an inbred entity or unnatural force wreaking terror and, of course, death. Lots and lots of death.
Backwoods, the latest terror by Fighting Owl Films and distributed by Gravitas Ventures, provides the dark and deep landscape but adds a twist that the terror is not only from the outsider inbred, but from deep within a fragile, teenage psyche.
Molly (Isabella Alberti) a cheerleader at the local high school, is an abduction victim as she resides in the trunk of a car. Tied up and scared out of her mind, a series of flashbacks fly through her mind as she pieces together how she got here. She manages to free herself with the help of a handle of a pom-pom.
As she emerges from the trunk, attacks the masked kidnapper, and runs into the blackness of an unknown woods, a flashback occurs going back to the football game where the high school is victorious over its opponent. Molly and her know-it-all sister Olive (Angelina Alberti) meet up with the nerdy, wiseass water boy Noah (Michael Anthony Bagozzi) and invite him to a party that resides in a part of the woods called Hangman’s Hollow, where a “legend” exists that a serial killer living in said hollow murdered and hung up several people–and that an offspring could exist.
Molly, Olive, and Molly’s quarterback star boyfriend Hunter (Matthew McCoy) drive to the party where Hunter attempts to deflower Molly. Molly, disgusted by Hunter’s advances, confides in Noah. When a confrontation between the two males gets out of hand, Molly finds herself and Noah tied up in a rundown shack where a misshapen inbred called The Hangman (Scott Alan Warner) has held them captive. As Molly tries to free herself, she finds out that the inbred creature is the least of her worries.
Written by Erin Lilley and Thomas Smith, who also is the director, this piece of chilling cinema is more than the typical hillbilly saga; it stretches itself out to be more than the predictable unsightly faced antagonist. Mr. Smith creates an unnerving atmosphere throughout the film especially in the Hangman’s Hollow sequences where anything could come out and ensnare the characters at any moment. A nod goes to cinematographer Kris Skoda with his fantastic night shots that are well created to make out the shadowy figures (both living and dead) and bring them into the “light”.
Isabella Alberti performs the many stages of Molly to perfection. Angelina Alberti provides an excellent comic contrast as the brash, smart-aleck Olive. Matthew McCoy shines as the cocky quarterback boyfriend Hunter. Scott Alan Warner plays a difficult character in The Hangman who has few words and has to communicate through physical movements, which he does artfully. The actor that amazes is Michael Anthony Bagozzi in his portrayal of the wise guy turned ominous Noah. The character’s persona turning at the right moments of the film makes his portrayal a memorable one.
With its wonderful storytelling, directing, and performances, Backwoods gives us another reason not to play around in the woods for it is dark, deep, and full of the unknown.
This piece of chilling cinema is more than your typical hillbilly saga.