To say I was apprehensive about watching Backwoods would be an understatement. What you can’t see is that that boards you see on the box to the side is actually a slip cover that reveals this huge mountain of a man holding Haylie Duff. That combined with the fact that I had never heard of the movie and that watching a Deliverance/Hills Have Eyes-like movie doesn’t get me very excited, left the Backwoods DVD I was given when I still worked at Wizard on my “to watch” pile for quite a while. I popped it on last night, promptly fell asleep and started it back up today and I was pleasantly surprised.
I would guess that your enjoyment of this movie will directly correlate with how many of these kinds of movies you’ve seen. Like I said, these aren’t really my thing, so I tend to avoid them, which means I wasn’t comparing it too much. The plot focuses on this group of employees from a video game company going on a company paintball retreat. They stop somewhere and, because one of the guys is wearing an FBI hat, the redneck proprietor directs them to an off-the-map location where they start getting attacked by people in the woods. As it turns out, the people in the woods are part of a cult-like group that is really into God and has taken over a military base (or were they actually in the military? I’m not sure if it’s ever explained). They usually kill the men and keep the women as breeding stock to keep their little society going. The dummy who thought they were all actually part of the FBI told the leader of the cult, so he’s operating under the assumption that that is the truth. Soon enough our heroes are on the run, trying to escape.
There were several times in the movie where I thought things were going to completely slow down and get boring, but luckily that never happened. See the paintball people are broken up into two teams. One team (Team Canon Fodder) gets taken out pretty quickly, so I was thinking “Well, there goes the potential for cool deaths throughout the movie.” But it turns out some were captured, not killed which allows for a much more interesting second half.
And speaking of the cast, they all did a pretty great job. Haylie is definitely my favorite of the Duff clan and our hero turns out to be Ryan Merriman who was in Final Destination 3 and played young Jarod in The Pretender. You’ve got your regular dickish guy, the girl who can’t stop screaming and the head of the backwoods folk who is all about God and military. The most surprising member of the cast to me was Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Mother Ruth, the woman who runs this whole messed up operation. Turns out she was Mercy in The Warriors! And wow, what a difference almost 30 years can make.
I want to jump into some major SPOILER territory right now because I do take issue with the end. See, you’ve got your usual showdown where the good guy takes out the bad guys. He’s facing down the big bruiser, the main guy and another guy. He easily shoots the other guy, then plugs the big guy a couple times and then the old guy drives his car into another car before our hero shoots him in the head. Now, here’s the thing. Why doesn’t he go over to shoot the giant guy in the head a couple times. Instead, we get a post script where the hero wakes up to the FBI telling him they only found two corpses. Then we see the FBI raiding the facility the backwoods people lived in and it’s almost empty (which is weird because there were a ton of people there before and not all of them were killed, like the kids) only to see the one female officer get killed by the giant before the credits come up. See, I don’t mind abrupt endings like this, but what the hell does it mean? Are we supposed to think that they giant killed all of the guys in the FBI unit? That he was taken down after this? It’s annoying sequel-bait that bugs me, even though I’m actually working on a story right now that picks up where a movie like this or Texas Chainsaw Masacre ends. Anyone interested, let me know!