Backwoods is a story about a group of video game co-workers that embark on a business trip designed to sharpen their executive skills. Its introduced to the office as “Executive Tactics!” – a paintball retreat to the mountains of North Carolina – where teamwork, problem solving, and perseverance will earn the winning team an extra paycheck and a little more brown for their professional noses. They are headed into trouble, as foreshadowed by the film’s first chapter, where a couple is wiped off the face of the Earth by a team of local hunters that live in the woods. The young man is knifed on a hilltop and the young woman is dragged off, forced to mate with their chosen one, whereafter the baby is stolen, and the girl forced into submission to live among the tribe.
Enter now the office, split into two teams, Alpha and Beta, which includes Disney’s Haylie Duff (yes, Hillary Duff’s sister) and Ryan Merriman – an ensemble of victims that nestle their way into the woods the old fashioned way – they pack up vans, sit through a road trip of witty banter, unpack, hee-haw it up to some slide guitar at the local creek, then bitch and annoy and joke until the campfire smolders and someone is trying to get laid in a tent. All along, an attempt is made to bond us to the characters at stake, while the locals stalk them from afar, assessing the situation – watching and waiting for the eventual murderous dismantlement.
A healthy template of potential victims is created – an annoying pain in the ass male hardon, a couple of hotties (one of which doesn’t want to sleep her way to the top), a boss looking out for the crew, the sensitive geek who can sense what’s going on and tries to tell the others, the Asian comedy relief schlep, and the quick-tongued brother, amongst others. But by now, Backwoods has already blown its load – a dinky premature ejaculation that does nobody any good. You’d swear director Marty Weiss was at the helm of a PG-13, 7th Heaven episode gone wrong – because any time the kill presents itself (which is where the knockout blows of a horror film should lie) – we are given a gruesome implication of what happens. Nothing for our eyes to cling to.
The murders implied are violent. Being stabbed to death by a 10 inch hunting knife. Having your head caved in with several blows from a mallet. A spinal cord splitting arrow to the carotid artery. Impalement by Rambo tree traps. There are even rapes implied, and two girls are brutally taken by a towering Mickey Rourkian woodsman. This beast even smashes someone’s head into pumpkin pie with a big rock. But this is where the letdown will occur for a lot of viewers. Nothing is really shown. Remember that old trick, where someone strikes at the camera lens, and then the color of blood is painted across the entire screen? That’s what you’re going to get. That and bloody rubber sticks glued to uniforms that jiggle around when the actor moves. There’s even a point where someone gets stabbed to death with a big knife, and you can actually hear the scrunching of the prop-knife springs squeaking away, as the fake die-cast blade embeds itself repeatedly into the hilt.
If you’re wondering about Haylie Duff, she does a nice little swim scene and shows off her tight little body for those who are interested, but there’s no T&A – no gratuitous sex – nothing that’s going to excite anyone over the age of 16, in that department. And is it me, or does she yelp like a wounded hyena?
Final analysis: You can sit in front of a copy machine and get whaled in the head by sheet after sheet of seemingly the same shit, over and over, or you can plop yourself in front of a television screen and watch Backwoods to the same effect. Maybe its me, but I think we’ve seen this plot before? Or maybe drink a few bottles of non-alcohol beer in search of a buzz. Similar redundancy here. It’s a cross between The Hills Have Eyes, Hostel, Deliverance, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, decaffeinated for teens, wherein victims are hunted by back woods goons and forced to mate with Mickey Rourke (well, maybe not literally, but damn – it looks a lot like him). It has the structure of a decent slasher film, but fails to make any type of mark in the tension/terror department. (And to RipVanRyan – who recently lamented over seeing so many horror films that 90% of them fail to invoke any type of gut response now-a-days – this is not going to change things one bit.) “Backwoods” is NOT the international Gary Oldman film that came out a year or two ago – so be careful if you actually hit Amazon to make a purchase on this overpriced weakness. 2