We are not too impressed by this new camping horror…
If you’ve seen even one horror film, then you’ll know not to go on vacation. Don’t go on vacation in Slovakia, don’t go on vacation in Camp Crystal Lake. Do you want to get killed? Just stay at home. You might still get stalked by a Michael Myers or even a Freddy Krueger, but at least you’ll be surrounded by domestic comforts. It’s going camping that’s the worst, because in these films it always seems like a bit of a nightmare before the hillbilly creeps even show up.
Actually, unlike most films of its genre, Backwater expresses a slight interest in exploring, if you like, the morality of vacation itself, with Cass (Liana Werner-Gray) and Mark (Justin Tully) playing out the beats of a familiar, but nonetheless effective, argument about the propriety of action when they hear what sounds like someone screaming for help in the woods. Sadly the slow, intense character study you might be led to believe you’re in for never really materialises; instead we get an obviously creepy fellow-camper (Andrew Roth) and a corrupt local lawman who might as well be played by Robert Patrick (but the film settles for the similarly double-first-named Thomas Daniel), and any interest generated in the first act wanders disjointedly off into the woods and never returns.
Whether this is the case or not, the film gives the feeling of having been mostly improvised from scenario; it also gives the feeling that Liana Werner-Gray is the only accomplished improviser in the cast. If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself looking on dispassionately as Justin Tully gets sliced up with less enthusiasm than your average GCSE drama class. This becomes more of a problem later on, as we find out that all is not quite as we’ve been led to believe, and Cass is a darker character than she appears. But, damn it, she’s the only one in the cast who really seems to care, so why oughtn’t we root for her?
It’s not at all uncommon for horror films to build suspense so well that the second half, in which the monsters are finally unleashed, can seem underwhelming in comparison. This is true even for classics like Alien, Aliens, Poltergeist and The Evil Dead, and if an excellent film like this year’s Cub couldn’t get away from it, then a thoroughly standard effort like this one never had a hope. Still, Backwater manages impressively to peak with the second shot in the whole film: a bloodied Sheriff’s badge lying in the road, unnoticed.
Backwater reaches the UK on DVD and VOD today (10th November)! Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!