Given its descriptive title, most viewers probably know already whether or not they are likely to check out “Backwoods Bloodbath”, which is pretty much fair enough, since the film really does play out according to type. The film was written and directed by Donn Kennedy, marking his debut, and mixes comedy in with its horror as the usual bunch of losers are knocked off one by one in the woods. A distinctly low budget affair, the film is nevertheless more enjoyable than most of its peers, and won Best Horror Feature at the New York Independent Film Festival. Originally released back in 2007, it finally arrives on region 2 via MVM.
There really isn’t a great need to outline the plot in any depth, though basically it revolves around the legend of a mysterious flesh eating creature called The Black Hodag which has apparently been sighted in the northern woods of Oneida County in Wisconsin since 1877. Ignoring the usual warnings from the locals, a group of six college friends decide to have a reunion party in a cabin right in the middle of its territory, and unsurprisingly find out that the stories are terrifyingly true.
The main aspect of “Backwoods Bloodbath” that is likely to put off many viewers is the fact that it is a low budget, shot on video production, with all the usual problems that entails. As is often the case, the acting is terrible, with some truly amateurish and grating performances that may have many fumbling for the mute button. The film is awkwardly shot, with too much static camera work and needless, badly framed close-ups, and this adds to the shoddy, unprofessional feel, as does the general air of cheapness. The pacing is variable throughout, with the filler material between the attack scenes being quite interminable in places. Almost everything about the film is fiercely generic, from the opening scene of two characters having sex in a barn before being killed, right through to the predictable way in which the creature cuts its way through the cast.
Despite all of this, the film is actually quite enjoyable, much more so than the vast majority of other poverty row productions that are slowly smothering the low budget end of the horror spectrum. A fair amount of thought quite obviously went into the script, and Kennedy is certainly a better writer than he is a director. Whilst the characters themselves are unlikeable, brash stereotypes, the film has an enjoyably goofy sense of humour and a few genuinely offbeat touches. A respectable number of the gags genuinely raise a smile, and though the tone is lowbrow, with drug, drink and sexual humour being very much the order of the day, the film is never needlessly crude or forcibly non-PC. Indeed, given that its effects are somewhat less than special, with most of the kills being off-screen, and that every shock scene is too clearly telegraphed to scare, the film really does work better as a comedy.
Although this may sound like strange praise for a horror film, it actually plays out well enough, and makes “Backwoods Bloodbath” far more amiable than it might otherwise have been. This in itself is somewhat of an achievement for a film with such lowly and unimaginative origins, and whilst it would be stretching things to recommend it to anyone, it does pass the time quite painlessly, especially with a few beers.
Donn Kennedy (director) / Donn Kennedy, Brandon Semling (screenplay)
CAST: Scott Ash … Brick
Ryan Buth … Scott
Seth Chilsen … The Hodag
Tyler Constable … Duke
Jesse L. Cyr … Mark
Adam J. D’Amato … Bar Patron
David Lephardt … Doug
Angela Lowe … Jessica