Backwoods Bloodbath Review
The bleak isolation and insidious threat of murky moors and dark sprawling forests have long been a staple horror landscape for the slashing, mauling, and requisite slicing and dicing of arrogant city folk, where the country dwellers seize a rare opportunity to (albeit sometimes passively) wield power and exact revenge upon their slick, affluent counterparts. Whether it's the dubious silent complicity of the Slaughtered Lamb drinkers in American Werewolf..., or the disturbing entrapment of the travelling teenagers in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the paranoid fear of the countryside – and its folk – can prove a compelling horror vehicle.
Director Donn Kennedy is certainly inspired by the successful back catalogue of this brand of horror, as evidenced by low budget effort Backwoods Bloodbath, a title that leaves viewers in little doubt of the central theme. Indeed, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre receives a few respectful nods throughout the gruesome picture, yet further comparisons with the profoundly unsettling seventies shocker are limited, as the bloodfest fails to construct the necessary climax of oppressive, relentless terror, despite its sometimes inventive efforts.
Though the presumably micro-sized budget is clear from the outset, the failings are related to the execution of the piece as a whole. Not only do the cast seem inexperienced, with some players delivering lines with a disinterested and automaton-esque style, but the frustrating inconsistency of the pacing means that, with the use of overly-repeated shots, seemingly confused timings, and a football game on the radio that seems to last for hours, the unfolding massacre has little opportunity for any substantial impact. The presentation of the country dwellers makes for uncomfortable viewing, and not for the right reasons; where The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or I Spit on Your Grave, for example, present delightfully demented caricatures of the stereotypes so feared by the paranoid city folk, the unpleasant and backward locals here are flat, stupid, and bereft of redeeming features – even if those redeeming features are the macabre creativity of Leatherface, for example.
The technical approach is questionable too; lighting is sometimes poor, with strong primary colours spoiling any sense of gritty realism. The composition is awkward, with characters often too close to the camera, or framed partially outside of the shot. The capturing of audio is detrimental to the films' impact too, with dialogue regularly difficult to hear, and the volume levels differ vastly between characters, even when they are positioned in close proximity to one another.
The main problem is that our slasher – the beast the locals know as the 'Hodag' – simply isn't frightening, nor remotely credible. Our nefarious nasty is, in essence, a hulking dreadlocked giant with a bizarrely sculptured face, and whilst his physicality makes for an intimidating presence, our shudders are scant.
This bare-bones budget bloodbath could be utterly forgettable, but thanks to a wavering but persistent creative undercurrent, it just about manages to stake a claim above the bloody rivers of its rivals. At some points, you almost think that it's on the cusp of doing something special. Take the moment in the local shop, where the arrogant city boys are talking to the shopkeeper; he asks them if they are 'FIB's', and a translation of the insult appears for our benefit across the bottom of the screen. It's a clever touch. There are some moments of playful characterisation; ex-soldier Paul is unashamedly fond of perverse and experimental antics, which makes for some mildly humorous sequences. Jessica's dream segment, whilst extraneous to the plot, at least provides further interest. And the music-backed sequence where the revellers are moving through their varied morning routines in turn before a shot moves in on a bloody female corpse, shows a certain sense of promise in terms of the stylistic approach.
Despite the available artistic endeavour, Backwoods Bloodbath suffers from far too many deficiencies to impress. The gore is sometimes impressive, considering the budget, but the bargain basement performances, irregular pace, straightforward stereotyping, and lack of solid filming prowess means that this particular slasher carries little to justify hearty recommendation.
The disc comes with region 2 encoding. The transfer itself was presumably a challenge, due to what looks like the low budget nature of the original stock. The picture wavers between general clarity and a fuzzy, grainy feel, the filming is often blurred on faster shots, and there is occasional evidence of a strip of interference at the edge of the picture. The colours can feel a little washed out at times, and blacks are particularly poor, with a lack of depth. The most disappointing aspect is that the movie is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which results in an especially insubstantial viewing experience.
There are no subtitles.
To compound the difficulties with the unevenly recorded dialogue, the general quality of sound reproduction, especially on voices, lacks clarity, though this may be an issue with the source recording. The sub-Alice in Chains styled soundtrack is delivered in similar flat fashion, although to its credit there is no perceptible distortion.
The extras are as limited as the acting talent on offer here, confined to just a trailer, and a selection of other available titles.
It has lofty aspirations and heaps shovel-loads of respect onto its successfully gritty and gruesome forebears, but the amply gory Backwoods Bloodbath is just too unpolished and crude in its delivery to carry a shadow of the required impact. With poor technical presentation and some uncomfortably amateur performances, this budget movie release has only its glimpses of invention and creativity to contribute payback for your investment.