Backwoods (2008)
By: Craig Villinger on January 20, 2010  | 
DVD
Paramount (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 80 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Marty Weiss
Starring: Ryan Merriman, Haylie Duff, Danny Nucci, Mark Rolston
Screenplay: Anthony Jaswinski
Country: USA
External Links
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If horror movies have taught us anything it's that heavily wooded areas should be off-limits to city slickers. Between the masked slashers with troubled pasts to the killer bears to the cannibalistic mutant inbreds, if you go out in the woods today you're pretty much screwed. Figuratively, and, in some cases, quite literally. Just stay home folks.

These people certainly should have…

A group of eight young corporate go-getters have ventured to a remote wilderness location for a team building exercise (no, I haven't accidentally started giving you the synopsis for Severence, just in case you are wondering). The game of choice is paintball, while the aim of the game is to impress upper management by showing skill and determination, and with an extra weeks pay going to the victor everyone is keen to give it a red-hot go. Unfortunately however, not long after the first paint balls have been fired the jolly corporate jaunt turns into a desperate fight for survival when the game spills into the pissing grounds of an unsociable backwoods religious cult whose members don't take too kindly to big city folk, and are always on the lookout for new female recruits to impregnate…

It took less than ten minutes to figure out where Backwoods was going, because essentially every backwoods horror movie tells the same story – people go into the woods, people get chased, people get dead, survivors eventually fight back. So the question is, will the same old story be told with any style here? Sadly, in the case of Backwoods, the answer is no. One of the things that makes the backwoods horror genre so interesting is not it's originality, but it's brutal tone – seeing normal folks like you and I in an unfamiliar environment, suffering unthinkable torment, before their most primitive survival instincts kick-in and they themselves become as savage as their attackers. Backwoods horror is often grim, gritty, and realistic, but Backwoods feels like a candy coated backwoods flick made for teenagers.

Considering its made for cable origins there's nothing particularly b-grade about Backwoods, with the production values on par with some of the lower budgeted stuff coming from the major studios. The cast, for the most part, are likeable too, adding depth to an assortment of office stereotypes from nice guy Ryan Merriman (previously seen dodging death in Final Destination 3) to the office sweetheart Haylie Duff (sister of the more famous Hilary) who struts around the woods in knee high boots, which is not an appropriate fashion choice, but one that is pleasing to the eye nonetheless. On the backwoods killer side Robert Allen Mukes looks suitably fearsome as the hulking family stud who seeks to take the comely office lasses against their will for much of Backwoods' second half, and fans of cult cinema should get a kick out of seeing Deborah Van Valkenburgh from The Warriors playing the twisted family matriarch.

Solid the cast may be, but the backwoods genre isn't one that necessarily needs a good cast – it needs to do mean and nasty things to good people. It needs blood, guts, and white knuckle tension, but Backwoods isn't nearly exploitative enough. Now I'm perfectly capable of enjoying movies that aren't all about the violence and gore, and Backwoods' lack of nastiness might not have been a problem if it weren't for the fact that it looked like it was trying to be nasty at times. In the second act, after the obligatory woodsy chase scenes, it slips into Hostel territory with the characters being battered and beaten in seedy industrial looking basements, and much of the final act shows the young female office workers tied to beds with an ever present threat of sexual violence in the air, but these scenes, which should be exploitive, come across as very tame. The OFLC warning on the front of the slick claims the movie features "Frequent Strong Violence", but I think our local censors need to harden up and give us their consumer advice from a more manlier perspective, as the violence was neither frequent nor strong.

Backwoods falls just short of being a terrible movie. It's not an offensively annoying viewing experience, it's just too similar to a lot of movies that have done the exact same thing with much greater gusto. The characters are amiable, and the members of the demented backwoods religious cult are a little more intelligent and complex than the usual moronic inbred mutant hillbillies we see stalking city slickers in these sorts of movies, but the end result is an awkward mix of wannabe gritty backwoods horror and slick, teen friendly action that doesn't deliver enough of either to satisfy the type of viewer that would be draw to its premise.
Video
Presented in a 16:9 enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the daylight scenes are fantastic – bright, sharp, colourful. The darker moments can get a little fuzzy, but this is generally a solid visual presentation.
Audio
The 2.0 track features no niggly audio issues and is always clear and easy to understand, though for a movie produced in 2008 stereo sound just doesn't cut the mustard. According to online reviews the The Region 1 release features 5.1 sound, so we've dipped out here.
Extra Features
The static menu features just two options: Play Feature, and Scene Selection. That's it.
The Verdict
If you haven't seen Severance or Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes (or its remake) or Deliverance or Just Before Dawn, you should go watch them. All of them. They are all much better than Backwoods, which never aspires to be anything greater than the films it imitates, while simultaneously failing to deliver what made those movies so enjoyable.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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