Arriving on DVD April 15 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment is the long-delayed The Backwoods, which we now have two reviews for. Ryan Daley’s positive review can be found by reading on, or you can check out Tex’s by clicking the link above. Set in the summer of 1978, film depicts the apparently quiet holiday of a couple of English tourists who travel to a friend’s house in a Basque village, where they find a girl in a cabin in the woods with deformed hands.
8 out of 10
By: Ryan Daley
I love Brian DePalma’s BODY DOUBLE on its own terms: as a gratuitous, slightly misogynistic horror/thriller featuring over-stylized camera work and a gloriously stupid ending. But I love it even more as a cheesy (yet devoted) homage to Hitchcock’s VERTIGO. Unfortunately, for every noteworthy Scorsese genuflection like BLOW, there’s a SESSION 9 rip-off like the abysmal BOO!, and sometimes it’s hard to immediately recognize the difference between cinematic adulation and awkward parody.
THE BACKWOODS (Bosque de sombras), a Spanish/British co-production from director/co-writer Koldo Serra, manages to successfully channel the mood and energy of Sam Peckinpah (one of my all-time favorite directors), and Serra’s admiration for the late auteur is palatable in this well-crafted and very respectful nail-biter.
It’s 1978, and Paul and Norman are on a road trip with their respective spouses, out to visit Paul’s house in northern Spain. The men stop for a drink at a roadside pub–leaving the chicks in the car–and are harassed by some local thugs for being tourists.
Luckily, Paul is played by Gary Oldman (Dracula, himself, motherfuckers!), and he unloads on the rowdy locals with a torrent of fluent Spanish, cause, you know, his gramma’s from Spain and he knows his shit. Norman (Paddy Considine, who kicked truckloads of ass in DEAD MAN’S SHOES) is hesitant to enter the verbal fray, 1) because he doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish, and 2) because his super foxy wife (Virginie Ledoyen, from Danny Boyle’s THE BEACH….remember her?…..yeah….how could you POSSIBLY forget?), chooses that exact moment to stroll into the bar wearing a wet T-shirt, like she just wandered off the Girls Gone Wild tour bus. Suffice it to say, tensions in the pub escalate, but the group manages to slip away unscathed (“to be continued…”) in Paul’s 1975 Renault Shoebox, and they soon find sanctuary at the secluded house in the thick Spanish woods.
While hunting the next morning, Paul and Norman get lost and stumble on an abandoned house. Inside a padlocked room, they discover a young girl with deformed lobster-claw hands. She’s dirty and hungry and chained up, so they decide to rescue her. Unfortunately, once they’ve hidden the lobster girl at Paul’s house, the rowdy locals come-a-callin’ and….well….unruly European villagers/rapists, the 1970s, a secluded house in the countryside, a vindictive man trying to protect his woman and a retard……..we’ve all seen STRAW DOGS, haven’t we?
The last time I saw a director attempt to ape STRAW DOGS so directly was in 1996’s FEAR, but Marky Mark’s constantly flaring nostrils and over-the-top menace drove the movie down the dark alleys of unintentional comedy. The opening credits sequence of THE BACKWOODS is pure THE WILD BUNCH–recurring freeze-frames switched to a black-and-white exposure as each credit is blasted onto the screen–and with the issues of masculinity and a man’s right to defend that masculinity through violence, Serra’s movie screams Peckinpah at every turn. Unlike FEAR, this movie is dead serious. Serra isn’t quite willing to go toe-to-toe with Peckinpah’s 1971 classic in terms of brutal misogyny, and there are a couple of disappointing moments where the characters behave so illogically you want to yell at the screen (“Button up your shirt, bitch, and grab that shotgun!”), but THE BACKWOODS is still a visceral ride that is impossible to stop watching. With smooth, stylish direction, and powerhouse acting, this is easily one of the best thrillers I’ve seen so far this year, and the best nod to STRAW DOGS that I’ve ever seen in my life.