directed by Marty Weiss
(Genius, 2009)

I didn't have high expectations for this movie. To my way of thinking, the world already has more than enough B-horror movies featuring a group of young people going out into the woods and being attacked by a bunch of dirty, disgusting backwoods cretins. To make matters worse, the characters in this film are all taking part in a corporate team-building retreat, a practice I consider to be one of the most infernal ideas mankind has ever come up with. And wouldn't you know it? These young video game company executives turn out to be among the most annoying people on the planet. Only two have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, the one dude (Ryan Merriman) who isn't really into all of the kissing up and debauched camaraderie and the hot girl (Haylie Duff) who's sort of uncomfortable with her jerk boss's constant touchy-feely sessions with her.

To my surprise, the film actually grew some legs somewhere in the middle -- but not enough to really win me over. In the end, a complete lack of originality consigns Backwoods to the ranks of the slightly below average. Think Wrong Turn meets The Hills Have Eyes and you'll pretty much have Backwoods all figured out.

I wasn't sure what to make of the name Tom Alan Smithee being given to a character (and a minor character, at that). As most B-movie buffs know, "Alan Smithee" is the name film directors use when they know they've made a real stinker and don't want their real names associated with the project. Maybe the character name is just a coincidence, but the fact that Smithee and his girlfriend turn up on "Missing" posters as having last been seen on February 30 seems to indicate that the scriptwriter may have had a sense of humor about the whole thing. (Unfortunately, these in-jokes are the only creative aspects of the entire film.)

So our stereotypical characters all go out to the middle of nowhere to play paintball, hone their "executive tactics" and have their teamwork skills reviewed by their obnoxious boss. Being hot-shot executives and all, they happily set up camp in what they know is a restricted area that used to house some sort of military installation. The one unhappy camper among them soon notices all of the obvious evidence that they're not alone, but no one wants to listen to his party pooping warnings. The next thing you know, the gang is besieged by a group of religious fanatics who proceed to beat the crap out of the six guys while preparing the two females for use in increasing the local nutjob population.

Backwoods was apparently produced for Spike TV, so don't expect to see much in the way of blood and gore. (Needless to say, there's no nudity whatsoever.) Some old-fashioned traps make the chase scenes through the forest somewhat interesting, but I pretty much relied on Duff's hotness to get me through the film's 80-minute runtime (although I must admit I got quite a kick out of watching a mortally wounded techie put on an amazing show of shooting bad guys without even aiming). If you're a horror fan, Backwoods is certainly a watchable film, but you won't see anything here you haven't seen before.

review by
Daniel Jolley

7 May 2011

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