With his last film Tim Sullivan (2001 MANIACS) showed the world that he knew how to take a joke and run with it. Still delivering a film that was as equally gory as the Splatpackers but with a share of wit and raucous dash of anarchy. Sullivan’s sophomore effort exacts a much more restrained approach, delivering a coming of age psychological horror film that offers some insightful social commentary.
DRIFTWOOD is a kind of wayward camp for troubled youth. The type of place where you go when the folks who raised you wrong can’t stand to deal with you anymore—a place where they promise to help you stop being yourself and start contributing to society. It’s not a rich country club for bulimic cheerleaders; DRIFTWOOD is where they send the next would-be Columbine High School killers. Overseeing the disaffected prisoners of this low-end concentration camp is “The Captain” (Diamond Dallas Page). The Captain’s job is clear; beat out any sense of self worth you have left and put your ass to work for the betterment of his personal bank account. But a new teen is about to join the ranks of the DRIFTWOOD crew.
David Forrester (Ricky Ullman) lost his rock star brother in a tragic overdose. Wracked with guilt of his inability to save his brother, Forrester’s darkness envelops him. With nothing left to do Forrester’s parents (2001 MANIACS’ Lin Shaye and SUPERMAN’S Marc McClure) have no other choice than to ship off young David and hope for the best. Haunted by his brother’s death, David soon discovers that the halls of DRIFTWOOD hold more than the restless spirits of its inhabitants, as the ghastly figure of a missing teenager unlocks a mystery that threatens the lives of all the residents.
Fans of Sullivan’s debut feature are apt for a severe case of shell shock when they sit down to view DRIFTWOOD. Gone are the sly sexual innuendos, the free-for-all madness, the musical interludes and the grisly gore effects. In it’s place, Sullivan delivers a harsh dissertation on abusive authority and senseless violence. DRIFTWOOD has more in common with the dramatic works of Stephen King than it does with the bloody excesses of most modern day horror films. All-in-all the film delivers an exceptionally well-rounded look at a very real type of terror.
The performances are all surprisingly solid, including former professional wrestler and part-time actor Diamond Dallas Page (THE DEVIL’S REJECTS). Page’s characterization of The Captain is menacing and foreboding. His physical presence lends a great deal of immediacy to the film, and often his actions speak louder than his words. In a key scene, Page holds a gun aloft at an escaped prisoner. Page manages to capture the intense distain The Captain feels for his charges with just the gritty look in his eyes. It might not be an award winning performance but the truth is Page sells the hell out his role in this film.
If you’re looking for the kind of flash fun that Sullivan brought out in spades with his H.G. Lewis update in 2005, keep looking, the director will be back this year with his planned sequel. But if you’re interested in an entirely different side of a complex filmmaker—one that shows he’s no one trick pony—then you’re gonna wanna take a long hard look at DRIFTWOOD.