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The name Uwe Boll attached to a film usually signals that it's not an example of exquisite craftsmanship and vision. Nevertheless, the German director has managed to make quite a film career for himself. I decided to check out his film Blackwoods, originally released in 2001, and now being re-released by Martini Entertainment. It's not fully successful thriller, and while it ultimately fails, it's not awful.
Matt Sullivan (played by Patrick Muldoon, who you might recognize as the smarmy guy from Starship Troopers) is a privileged and carefree young man who is about to go spend a long weekend in the country with his new girlfriend Dawn (Keegan Connor Tracy) and her family, in the remote Black Woods. Matt is still dealing with the psychological ramifications from a fatal car accident he was involved with a few years ago. But he doesn't let that interfere with the good time he's having, as he flirts with Dawn in a diner, and they video themselves talking about their favorite things. But don't worry, things get creepy sooner rather than later.
And that creepiness factor first rears its head in the person of Clint Howard, who is well versed in the ways of oogy disquietude, as the surly motel manager Greg. When Matt comes in to get a room, Greg immediately suggests the suite where the TV plays nothing but porn. It's a classy kind of place. But soon enough, Matt and Dawn are checked in, they make love (which scene is filmed in a weird herky-jerky slow motion fashion), and then Dawn heads out on an unspecified errand. Moments later, a man clad in black breaks into the room with a giant axe. Matt manages to subdue him, but no one, either Greg or Sheriff Harding (Michael Pare) believe him. This is only the beginning of his troubles. Dawn not returning, he sets out to find her family's home, which is supposed to be nearby. What happens next is a mix between Fritz Lang's M and The Most Dangerous Game, but I won't say more than that.
First, let's talk about the things that worked. The performances were good, though perhaps not inspired. Muldoon, Pare and Howard are all professionals and know how to do their jobs, and they did them competently. Matt is not a particularly empathetic protagonist, which dilutes the dramatic tension significantly, but that's not Muldoon's fault. On the other hand, Keegan Connor Tracy really throws herself into her role, playing the country girl just barely cleaned up for city living to a tee. Her performance is probably the only one that I'd say was passionate. She was fun to watch. The effects are decent, and the locations / sets are very effective. The story for the most part hangs together.
And that brings us to what didn't work. While the plot mostly holds together, the final twist is ridiculous and not believable. And there are a couple of other moments that don't work upon reflection. I'm a big proponent of movies, particularly horror movies, only needing to work in the moment, but the plot was too mediocre to earn much grace or leeway in this area. And the worst thing about the film is the cheesy, melodramatic way in which Boll shot it. Weird, jerky slow motion, etc. only serve to highlight the fact that nothing extraordinarily dramatic is happening.
Overall, the film is okay, but nothing special. It might be worth your time on a rainy afternoon, if you keep your expectations low. Rent It.
The image is 1.78:1 widescreen, and despite a little grain and muted colors, looks pretty good.
The audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and mostly works. The dialogue is a bit soft and hard to hear a few times, and sometimes sounds flat as if dubbed, but those are the only real problems, and are not pervasive through the film. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included.
The only extras are a trailer, which unfortunately gives away the twist ending if you're paying attention, and a short introduction from Boll.
Blackwoods is not a great film, but it's not an awful film either. It's certainly better than Boll efforts like Bloodrayne: The Third Reich or Alone in the Dark, which isn't a high bar, to be sure. But it's worth a look, if only to watch Keegan Connor Tracy give a pretty good performance.