DVD Review: Backwoods (2008)

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Admittedly, I never quite saw the point in strange and forced workplace bonding rituals like "Fish Camp" which used Seattle fishmongers for inspiration in an odd exercise. Finding a way to make money off of those famous fishmongers-- the idea was re-tooled for corporate America wherein we were forced to listen to Jimmy Buffet, try to sail paper airplanes into a fake fish pond for prizes, and be repeatedly reminded that we're special all the while being condescended as though back in grade school with obvious lessons about working together for the good of the company.

Likewise, I just couldn't understand the waste of resources in some of the bizarre arts and crafts style projects that found us enacting games which were just one step above those completed at a baby or wedding shower. Yet I guess in retrospect a paycheck beat the hell out of a tiny bag of bridal potpourri or a thimble sized piece of cake with a baby bootie on it any day of the week.

And while the bizarre yet mandatory customer service training exercises which involved using clips from movies like Jaws and Tommy Boy (sadly, I am so not kidding) were pointless to say the least-- after watching Backwoods, I think most of us will agree that all of the patronizing hoop-jumping and third grade motivational techniques of being penalized for lack of conformity or using enough glitter on our projects is infinitely preferable to a weekend stuck in Deliverance country.

However, the corporate retreat gone wrong follows a rapidly cut collage of terrifying animals, carnage, stereotypical white trash hillbillies, missing persons posters, and ominous danger set to the head-pounding soundtrack of angry goth metal which establishes the tone in the credit sequence of the made for television work.

And its darkness pays off quickly in standard horror movie style amidst a chilling prologue which finds one man dead and his girlfriend captured and caged for her forced use to bear more disfigured, inbred wackos for a clan who seems to exist as a sort of cross between the aforementioned Deliverance along with Roman Polanski's horror classic Rosemary's Baby.

Yet fortunately, just before we are to witness the young captive's rape in a religious based survivalist cult, the film cuts away to the easily interchangeable seven characters who will become our "protagonists" in the form of gaming engineers (including the instantly identifiable Haylie Duff as only one of two women working for the company) who are sent on a corporate retreat which will be a fully paid review of their job performance.

However instead of following a logical path and having the employees do something directly related to their company work-- we're reminded that this is the testosterone fueled strange scavenger hunt like environment of corporate America. So soon, Duff's Lee, her obnoxious alpha male boss, and five other employees (where only Ryan Merriman's sensitive Adam stands out) venture off towards a paintball battle which was supposed to be a metaphor for executive tactics and business strategy but ends up finding the young employees targeted with far deadlier implements than paint and uncool, blue camouflage they prefer to call fatigues.

Forced to leave their BlackBerries and board room mentalities behind to embrace laser sighted paintball guns to be fired illegally in what they assume is a natural preserve-- the seven employees soon divide into two teams. And par for the course, maddeningly they ignore the obvious horror movie red flags including some crazy locals, intimidating bikers, missing person posters, hanging animal carcasses, and elaborate booby traps as they venture into the deadly terrain of the survivalist cult of inbred, ultra-violent, "backwoods" bible thumping stereotypes.

A B-movie all the way that blends together not only the previously cited works but also far more successful, bigger budget B-movies like Wrong Turn and the entire Friday the 13th series and one without any new gimmicks or unexplored terrain, ultimately Backwoods is filled with an abominable script and an emphasis on shock value rather than actively trying to engage the viewer as it never comes close to being any more memorable than its indecipherable, indistinct and unimaginative cast of characters.

Further damaging the success of Duff's turn as the genre's favored type of a tank-top wearing, screaming, running, feisty heroine-- the cheesy and overly familiar Backwoods was released on the exact same day as the extraordinarily similar Crispin Glover lost in the woods effort Simon Says featuring Gossip Girl star Blake Lively.

While neither work was a success-- Simon was infinitely more watchable for not only its extremely inventive (and often stomach turning) Evil Dead II and Friday the 13th style deaths but also for giving us a fascinating doppelganger villain of two twin brothers. Played by the overwhelmingly creepy Crispin Glover-- the Back to the Future actor ensures you're engaged the entire way, much more so than these corporate brats fighting movie stereotype "hicks" when their paintball game suddenly becomes far bloodier than your typical day of glitter, glue, and fish camp.

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