American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire (2015)

Being a Southerner, I am always excited to see a “killer hillbilly”/”psychos in the woods” film that does not take place in the American South.  Every region has its “rednecks” and I always enjoy seeing what other areas have to offer in this genre.  If this film is any indication, I would be weary to go into the woods of New Hampshire.  It appears to be full of murderers, monsters and rapists.  A terrifying combination that plays out pretty well in American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire.

Director, Flood Reed, has assembled a very sadistic and playful adventure that can be simultaneously exciting and frustrating.  The acting is incredible, the direction is imaginative, but there are a few things that really hold the American Backwoods from being one of the best low budget horror flicks of the year.  But, before going into the details lets talk about the story.

The movie takes place in 1994 New Hampshire and follows a group of close friends that are on a road trip to find a local rite of passage.  By “rite of passage”, I mean a legendary strip club.  The trip turns out to be an incredibly deadly one.  These guys are going to have to survive multiple groups of murderous humans, as well as something else that lurks in the woods

American Backwoods offers more than just blood and guts, Mr. Reed knows how to develop likeable/despicable characters that you cannot help rooting for.  The actors all nail their parts and feel like real people, rather than just filling an archetype that is ultimately just fodder for gore.  For as much praise that I have for this film, there are still a few things that did not work for me.  Most notably, the choice of a soundtrack over a score.  The music can be incredibly distracting at times and would yank me out of the movie, especially the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.  Also, Flood Reed makes some creative flourishes that work well at times, but can also muddle the story and pace.  These moments of flashbacks and distortion sometime offer insight, but (more times than not) just distract you from what is happening in the scene.  Overall I really enjoyed this movie and will go out of my way to see more films from this director.  He is ambitious and I praise him for the chances that he is willing to take, even when they don’t work, I cannot help but admire him for trying.  American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is currently available on DVD and VOD.

3.5/5 STARS

 

THE GREEN INFERNO (2013)

Cannibal films have always held a very special place in my heart.  These sleazy, gory films always resonated with me and in the early 2000’s I made it a point to hunt down as many as possible.  From the great (Cannibal Holocaust, Man From Deep River) to the nearly unwatchable (Mondo Cannibal, Zombie Holocaust), I enjoyed the hell out of them all.  Each movie had its own strange charm, mixing old school adventure with extreme violence.  I would spend my time and money tracking down any italian movie with the word “Cannibal” in its title and wait for whatever bad VHS rip to come in the mail.  Each film had its own take, but they all shared a structure that felt like home.  Each would present a situation to get people in the jungle, a reason they would be captured and (most importantly) a reason to be eaten.

The obtuse dubbing and paint-red blood only added to my newly found obsession.  But, like all obsessions, you eventually drain the well.  I checked out a handful of recent movies that attempted to mine these ideas, but most failed and just presented neutered interpretations of what we had seen many times before. It was only a matter of time before someone was going to do it right and luckily Eli Roth came along and fulfilled my hopes.  I am happy to say that The Green Inferno is the real deal!  His premise is familiar, but avoids being just a cash in on nostalgia.  Mr. Roth contextualizes and updates the subject matter without losing the spirit of those early Italian films.  Its not perfect, but neither are those classic Amazon flicks of the late seventies and early eighties.

The movie is set in the modern world of armchair activists and introduces us to Justine (Lorenza Izzo).  She is a freshman in college who is looking for where she fits in the world and falls in with a group of activists with big plans.  The group’s leader, played brilliantly by Ariel Levy, puts together a plan to go to Peru and defend an isolated tribe that is being threatened by oil companies.  Once there, things go awry and the group eventually falls into the hands (and teeth) of brutal cannibals.

The standout of this movie is the unrelenting violence and I was surprised to see this kind of visceral action on a big screen.  The kills are brutal and funny, hitting that sweet spot that avoids being too mean-spirited or ugly.  The director is familiar enough with the genre to understand what makes it great.  You have to be allowed to laugh when presented with such grim situations or it becomes a chore to watch.  The gags are nihilistic, but in a way that feels therapeutic and liberating,

With all that said, I do have a couple small quibbles with Roth’s latest movie. The camera work (especially in the first act) is shaky and full of quick cuts that can be a little exhausting to watch.  The biggest issue that I had was with some of the digital effects.  The realism and complete immersion is interrupted a couple of times by terrible CGI that looks unpolished and sloppy.  But like I said, its not perfect but it is a lot fun.  I know the horror fanboys love to hate Eli Roth, but The Green Inferno should shut them up, at least for a while.  Its been a long time since Hostel 2, but this one was worth the wait.  It is currently available in wide release.

4/5 STARS