Backwoods, The (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers takes a straw dog hunting trip deep in the deep forests of Spain...
Two couples take a drive into the Spanish countryside for a hunting trip and a bit of relaxation. On the way they bump into a few of the less savoury locals. The trip further sours when they find a mutated and feral little girl chained up in a rundown shack. The decision is made to take the girl to the authorities when the less savoury locals come looking for her.
Well crap, there goes my theory that Paddy Considine and Gary Oldman are the same person, because here I’m seeing both of them on screen at the same time. Last month it was Patrick Dempsey and Rob Morrow. What’s next, Elias Koteas and Christopher Meloni?
Has anyone here ever seen Straw Dogs? Great film—really upsetting, really dark, but a great film. Straw Dogs is one of those movies that has been dissected to death by film historians (and in this case feminists), and gone from reviled to respected in its nearly forty years on film, and without a doubt paved the way for the future of shocking and grimy horror films like Last House on the Left and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The film explores one of director Sam Peckinpah’s favourite themes, that of ‘manhood’, and the modern interpretation of what that word means. Mathematician David Sumner (as played by Dustin Hoffman) is a modern man who is tested by archaic means. In the end he finds it in himself to match the outdated definition of ‘manhood’, but has sacrificed himself emotionally, possibly beyond redemption.
Backwoods explores these themes too, through Considine’s character, but gives him a more old-fashioned ally and simplifies his enemies. For the most part it doesn’t build upon the themes, rather explores them from a slightly different angle. What writer/director Koldo Serra does do is introduce maternal fears to the stew. Both ‘manhood’ and ‘motherhood’ are common themes for thrillers and horror films, but rarely are they mixed. Unfortunately, just when these juxtapositions are getting interesting Backwoods slides back into Straw Dogs territory, where it continuously comes up short. Perhaps Serra should’ve let his actors and their actions speak to his audience, rather then laying out their emotions in rocky dialogue.
Straw Dogs was also an early frontrunner concerning the ghoulish actions of rural psychopaths (a popular little sub-genre lately) in Hollywood and Europe. But like his heroes, Serra’s redneck monsters are sketchily drawn, and their motivations aren’t very intriguing, at the same time the villains are too thickly drawn to work as bogeymen. Serra’s sense of suspense is lacking, though he manages to eek out a few rigid shocks, but there isn’t a lot of what I’d call fright. Backwoods just doesn’t push the buttons as hard as our desensitized minds have come to expect, and an ending that should come as a shock comes instead as a forgone conclusion.
Backwoods is par for the straight-to-video Lionsgate course. The transfer is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, and looks pretty good for a lower budget production. Blacks are thick and solid, but contrast is a bit fuzzy. Details, especially smaller and sharper details are a little too soft, and edge enhancement is an issue throughout. The transfer’s greatest asset is its lush greens, though some of the browns and skin tones are a little messy.
Fernando Velázquez’s score isn’t exactly subtle, and it isn’t exactly original, but it does sound pretty good on this 5.1 Dolby Digital track, and it doesn’t overpower the rest of the audio. The soundtrack’s worst moment is a folk rock song that plays at the beginning and end of the film, which blatantly expresses the film’s underlying allegory in heavy handed lyrics—‘there’s a war, between the rich and the poor’, etc. Dialogue is clear and centred, though there are a few issues with its volume levels. The track really comes to life during the final act thunder storm, which really works out the rear and LFE channels.
Nothing here but some Lionsgate trailers, and not one for Backwoods either.
Backwoods is a perfectly average thriller that doesn’t achieve the proper level of real darkness in its plot or shocking visuals. Paddy Considine and Gary Oldman are both very good, Virginie Ledoyen is striking, and the photography is pretty, but if you’ve already seen Straw Dogs you’ve already seen better.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 15th April 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Easter Egg: No
Director: Koldo Serra
Cast: Gary Oldman, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Virginie Ledoyen, Paddy Considine, Lluís Homar
Length: 97 minutes
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