Directed by Travis Bain
Distributed by Monster Pictures UK
A pair of hopeful friends set off downriver amidst the remote Queensland wilderness in search of legendary gold in Travis Bain’s Aussie creature feature Throwback. While they do indeed manage to find the gold, long lost after the disappearance of historical outlaw ‘Thunderclap’ Newman, they also unfortunately rouse the attention of the native ‘Yowie’ – Australia’s version of Bigfoot.
Greed leads to violent confrontation as one of the pair, Kent (Ring), reveals his intentions to keep the gold to himself by any means necessary. Caught in the feud are outsiders in the form of forest ranger Rhiannon (Serafin) and police Detective McNab (Wells), all of whom are now stuck in a two-way predicament: first, escaping the sight of the gun-wielding Kent and second, keeping out of the clutches of the hairy, hulking Yowie.
Bain’s choice of title for his film carries an inherent double meaning, referencing not only the creature at the centre of the proceedings, but also the film itself – a call-back to the likes of Boggy Creek, Night of the Demon and other Bigfoot movies of yesteryear. The retro-styled titles also give a hearty clue as to where Bain is coming from with this low-budget effort, though in a pleasing turn the director is more concerned with crafting his narrative than he is with slathering the visuals with fake print damage in the manner of sundry modern faux-‘grindhouse’ micro-budgeters.
It’s somewhat of a shame, then, that the actual narrative in Throwback isn’t particularly interesting. It’s a good setup, but our core pair of protagonists, Jack and Rhiannon, lack true significance or dynamism on the page. Actors Brack and Serafin show a decent amount of chops in their performances, but there’s next to no meat for them to actually chew on when it comes to their devoutly ‘everyman’ characters. Much more intriguing is the malicious Kent, who stands out not for merely being the bad guy, but for being very much just a typical bloke with a nasty agenda. He isn’t a nefarious, moustache-twirling megalomaniac, nor a gun-wielding assassin – just a straightforward guy, often bordering on idiocy, attempting to take what he wants by force. It’s an approach to the villain that you don’t often see, and it has a nicely fresh effect on the film.
Vernon Wells, of The Road Warrior and Commando fame, shows up for a few short scenes as a ghillie-garbed detective attempting to uncover the reason behind myriad disappearances in the area. Wells is a pro, and he does a pro job for the short screen time that he gets. There isn’t much more to say about his involvement here, considering the very minor impact that his character has on the proceedings.
Visually, Throwback gains much of its production value from the natural locations. It’s a film shot on a very restricted budget and wisely makes little effort to try to hide it, and Bain deserves recognition for his presentation of the creature. It’s obviously a guy in a big furry costume, but the director makes smart use of focus and framing in such a manner that we never get a completely solid look at it. Mostly, we’re presented with flashes of fur, clawed hands and rear shots of the hulking body – but not once do we see a full-on lingering shot of the face… which one assumes is likely an immersion-breaking mask. It works fine in glimpses, but Bain is smart enough to know not to shove his goods in our faces with full knowledge that they aren’t up to snuff.
Gore and violence in Throwback are infrequent, but it sport a couple of good moments. Mostly, Bain focuses on raising tension through the Yowie’s growls and rustling in the woods, but it doesn’t always work out for the best. Throwback feels over-long, with little going on other than characters trudging through the woods with the occasional growl, padded out with dialogue that really does little to form a captivating story. Interest wanes all too frequently throughout, and even the Yowie encounters lack real punch and a true sense of primal brutality. While the tension doesn’t always work (one particular scene featuring Jack cowering just out of the creature’s swiping range is laughably presented, the perspective showing little in the way of it actually getting to him), Bain deserves accolade for one particular underwater sequence that is at once toe-curlingly tense and uncomfortably funny – not to mention timed to perfection.
When it comes down to it, Throwback is unfortunately not much more than a time-waster. It brings little new to the ‘monster in the woods’ formula – though one could argue that that’s entirely the point – and harbours little real meat in terms of characterisation. If you just can’t get enough of your Bigfoot romps, then you’ll likely get a kick out of it. Otherwise, your time may be better spent elsewhere. If you go down to the woods today… you aren’t in for much of a surprise.
Major kudos go to Monster Films UK for their treatment of Throwback, which comes to DVD packing a wealth of special features including an alternate ending (excised after poor initial reactions by test audiences), a couple of deleted scenes, a series of behind-the-scenes video diaries totalling around 30 minutes in length and a couple of trailers. Besides that, there’s a full recording of a Q&A with the filmmakers (including Vernon Wells) at the Famous Monsters Film Festival alongside the filmmakers’ own video diaries from their trip – which are often quite funny and filled with hilariously intentional references to Cairns Hardware, a major sponsor for their visit to the US.
Further to those videos, there are also a selection of six recorded radio interviews about the film with either Shawn Brack or Anthony Ring, a quick video of Vernon Wells reading an excerpt from Henry Lawson’s 1916 short story ‘The Hairy Man’, and three short films from director Travis Bain – the best of which, Daniel’s Jack, has a really great little punchline in the finish.
AND THEN there’s a full feature commentary with Bain and Brack which – while somewhat dry on occasion – is worth a listen in that low-budget filmmaking sense to hear the various recollections of challenges faced and getting the most out of the available resources. You can’t ask for much more in a DVD than you get here, especially given the independent nature of the film.
- Alternate Ending
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind the Scenes
- Full Trailer
- Teaser Trailer
- Famous Monsters Film Festival Q&A
- Famous Monsters Film Festival Video Blogs
- Radio Interviews
- Travis Bain Short Films
- Vernon Wells Reads an Excerpt From Henry Lawson’s “The Hairy Man”
- Commentary with director Travis Bain and actor Shawn Brack