Obviously inspired by competently made and reasonably engaging 'backwoods' horror films like Just Before Dawn, Rituals and Deliverance with maybe a bit of The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre thrown in for good measure, Backwoods isn't nearly as interesting, scary, or watchable as any of those aforementioned films. Rather, it's a boring, poorly written slug of a film that was, quite honestly, a chore to sit through.
When the film begins, a team of eight office worker types - six guys and two 'hot girls' (one of whom is Haley Duff but really, who cares) -are told by their boss that they're going to be going on a teambuilding exercise out in the boonies where they'll split into two teams and play paintball. It's never really explained what this will do to help their careers, but it is at least a set up of some sort and a reason to put these characters in the titular backwoods.
Once they drive out there, set up camp, and the boss guy hits on Haley Duff, much to the dismay of the not quite as cool but much nicer other guy, the teams get ready to start their day and head out into the sticks for what they expect will be a macho take on capture the flag. Well, the joke is on them, because there's a gang of redneck militia survivalist types in these here hills and they don't take too kindly on what they presume to be F.B.I. agents moving in on them. They abduct the office schlubs and lock them up in their secret bunker hideout where they intend to impregnate the women folk (or at least let the giant guy who looks like The Undertaker have his way with them) and, well, they never really make it too clear what they're going to do to the men but a bunch of them die and we're told their useless to them so we can probably assume they're going to kill them... unless they can escape.
Horribly acted, lazily written, and strung together from one dead horse of a cliché after another, Backwoods is bad. It's not 'hey, this movie is so poorly made it could be fun' bad either, it's just lame. There's nothing original about this film at all. The paintball motif was used earlier and with more originality in Friday The 13th V, the weird family/inbred/clan angle was used in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and countless other knock offs, and the rest of it is cribbed from the other movies mentioned in the opening paragraph of this review. The film doesn't have a single saving grace, not one specific quality that makes it worth watching save for a couple of moments of tepid gore, and one moderately amusing if completely ridiculous scene where... spoiler... a guy gets stuck in a trap and shoots bad guys yelling 'BRING IT!' until he runs out of bullets. The moderately attractive girls never get naked, so there's no skin, and the gore isn't plentiful enough to save the film or strong enough to carry any impact. Like most of production company RHI's efforts, this puppy's got 'made for cable' written all over it. It's cool to see Deborah Van Valkenburgh, immortalized by her appearance in The Warriors, pop up in a supporting part but there's nothing here, really... it's such a vacant film.
The script tries to throw in a couple of twists, but the final one is, again, lifted from countless horror films made prior and so for any seasoned genre fan, it won't deliver, which is in keeping with the rest of the film. Cheap, derivative horror films can definitely be a lot of fun and it's a shame that Backwoods fails to ever really get it up. The picture does move along at a quick pace but without characters of any dimensionality, creative murder set pieces or tension of any kind it falls very limp very quickly.
Backwoods is presented in a pretty spiffy 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that features nice color reproduction and a fair bit of detail in the foreground and the background of the image at all times. There's a bit of edge enhancement and at times though there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and overall the image is pretty decent on this DVD though you might notice a bit of mosquito noise in the background of some scenes as well as just a bit of really minute print damage if you're inclined to look for it.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 track is of fairly decent quality. The levels are well balanced and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. Dialogue comes through clearly at all times and the score and sound effects are mixed in with the appropriate amount of punch. Don't look for any subtitles, alternate language dubs or closed captioning options, however, as you'll be sorely disappointed.
There are preview for other RHI/Genius Productions straight to DVD releases that plays before you get to the static menu screen but aside from that, all you get on this release is chapter selection.
Backwoods isn't scary enough to work as a horror movie and it's not campy enough to work as an enjoyably bad film. The gore can't save it, the characters are completely one dimensional, and the script is predictable right up to the end credits. The barebones DVD looks and sounds fine, but you'd have to be a glutton for punishment to want to waste your time on this one. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.