Directed by Dean Crow [Other horror films: Father’s Day (1988)]
Filmed in Indiana (though not my birthplace, I’ve lived here most of my life), I was rather interested in seeing if this film could live up to other “city folk in the forests” type films, such as Hunter’s Blood or Moonstalker. Alas, while it has it’s positives, Backwoods doesn’t quite hit those high notes I was looking for.
The cast of this one is small – only four important characters, and two who are sort of just there at times (the fate of one of them, we never do find out). There’s nothing wrong with that on the surface, but when the first forty minutes or so focus mainly on three characters with little horror and only occasional tension, it doesn’t make for that enthralling a film.
What doesn’t really help matters is the fact that this isn’t really a slasher, which, I have to admit, were my expectations going in. The antagonist, a mentally-challenged guy named William, mainly made to strangle his victim, or grab their hair, or other stuff that didn’t involve slashing. Because of that, there’s wasn’t much in the way of a body count (given the small cast, that probably isn’t shocking) or gore. We do get a pretty solid finale, and there’s a painful-looking fishhook net, but that comes a bit late, and it’s too little, to really fix the lack of blood.
For much of the film, it plays itself more as a drama, especially when William’s father, somewhat animated (and, at the same time, taciturn) is mournfully explaining the woes his family has faced. There’s even some sad-ish music in the background. It helps build up toward the end a bit, but I don’t think I can fully forgive the light horror that the first hour of this film possesses, no matter how solid the ending was.
Dick Kreusser, who played the father of William, was probably the best out of the cast. He did a decent job showing emotion while playing a ‘man’s man’-type of guy. The two main characters, though, weren’t quite on the same level: Christine Noonan was nice to look at, but her character made some rather foolish errors, and Brad Armacost, who seems to be the only cast member of this film who is still acting, came off as an arrogant Yankee most of the time.
It’s the heavy drama, though, and the sluggish pace, not the acting, that makes this film a chore to sit through. Like I said, it does pick up at the end, and the fishhook net is pretty dangerous-looking, but it’s a case of ‘too little, too late.’ It’s a shame, as an 80’s backwoods horror film from Indiana sounds like it’d be my kind of movie. Backwoods just couldn’t make it, though.