Ginger Nuts of Horror
Backwater is a twisted piece of unique horror fiction. As I watched this movie I recalled the trailer and the glowing words of praise from some review screeners flashed across the screen. “It’ll surprise you all the way to the end.” “A script that dares to elevate beyond the usual platitudes.” “4 out of 5 stars. A treat for horror fans.” And for the first 45 minutes all I could think was “What the hell were these people thinking?”
I mean, it was ok, nothing really bad, but nothing stand out. Decent main characters, good cinematography, good dialogue, but all undermined for me by my #1 pet peeve in horror films - stupid decisions when faced with potential danger and the complete unpreparedness of so many victims that have no means of defending themselves and / or no willingness to do so in the face of danger. I watched and cringed and thought about all the different decisions that could have been made that would be better and even threw my hands up and said “Why the F%$# would you do that???” a couple of times I think.
I didn’t feel surprised at all. I asked myself how does this script elevate anything in horror “beyond usual platitudes”? And I sure as hell didn’t feel like I had been given any particular kind of special treat. I even thought, “What the hell kind of movie did Jim send me?”
But then, without warning, EVERYTHING suddenly changed. Not just a hard left at an intersection but a freakin’ truck jump over the ditch and into a field of corn, blindly careening God only knew where. And even when I figured that part out there was yet another hairpin turn out of nowhere. In fact, in the end it took some thought to make sure I had interpreted what I saw right.
So, here’s the basic story. Cass, the beautiful blonde girlfriend played by Liana Werner-Gray, and her boyfriend Mark, played by Justin Tully, have gone camping for the weekend in a fairly remote area that her uncle used to take her and her family when she was a kid. The audience is given an ominous warning as Cass and Mark are driving into the area. We get a shot of a bloody badge on the side of the road, partially covered with dirt. But of course this detail escapes their attention. They arrive, make camp, cook and eat and everything is fine, but while they are swimming in the water by their campsite they both hear what sounds like someone screaming, possibly for help. They wait and listen but hear nothing else. Mark wants to check it out. Cass doesn’t. But Mark talks her into them both going to see if anyone needs their help.
After some time Cass turns back while Mark continues on looking and finds a burgundy SUV unattended in a small clearing. Shortly a man named Glen comes limping out of the woods with a fishing pole and tells Mark, when asked, that the scream came from him. He twisted his ankle on some rocks down by the water while fishing and cried out. After some uncomfortable dialogue Mark heads back for camp. Meanwhile Cass gets a little lost and ends up on a small dirt road. A pickup comes along and someone who has a badge and uniform gets out and questions Cass about her purpose of being in the area and warns her about bears and snakes and possible young people who come out there occasionally to cause trouble. Afterwards he lets her go and she heads back to camp. That night they hear someone outside of their tent and area suddenly attacked, flushing them out of their tent and into the woods fleeing on foot. Many crappy decisions occur from here until the point that the whole paradigm of what we think is happening changes.
Despite being rather frustrated at several places in the first half of the movie I think the unforeseeable twists and turns make this movie worthwhile. Check it out. It WILL surprise you until the very end.
Review by Mike Duke
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