November 16, 2015 Backwater (Movie Review)
Backwoods movies such as Deliverance (1972) and Wrong Turn (2003) remind everyone of the dangers lurking in the woods, other than nature itself. New release, Backwater, plays on those same fears, while taking a few twists and turns along the way. Written and directed by Christopher Schrack, Backwater was distributed on DVD and VOD via Osiris Entertainment on November 10, 2015. This low-budget film is Schrack’s full feature debut, as both a director and writer.
Beginning in typical Survival Horror fashion, couple Mark (Justin Tully: Sorority Row 2009, Alone Yet Not Alone 2013) and Cass (Liana Werner-Gray: The Man in the Maze 2011, Waterfront Nightmare 2012) go camping in the woods next to a lake. All is going well until the couple hears someone yell for help in the distance. Mark decides to check it out and discovers a car nearby with an empty cooler in the back. The car’s owner, Glen (Andrew Roth: Taste It: A Comedy About the Recession 2012, The Rise and Fall of Their American Dream 2010) walks up, introduces himself and says that he yelled due to stubbing his toe. He explains that he came to the lake to fish, but has an empty cooler because he throws them back. Mark does not quite seem to believe the story, but goes back to his campsite after some awkward conversation. Meanwhile, Cass is walking down a road and gets stopped by a creepy man in a truck. Going by the name of Deputy Helm (Thomas Daniel: True Crime with Aphrodite Jones 2013, Law & Order: Trial by Jury 2005-2006) and dressed similar to a park ranger, he advises her to be aware of both forest creatures and people who are up to no good. As Cass and Mark find their way back to their site, they exchange stories of the strange people they encountered.
Later that evening, as the couple is asleep, someone attacks their tent but gets scared away by Mark. The two run to their car, only to discover that the battery is missing. After sleeping in the vehicle overnight, they make their way back to the campsite and discover that most of their belongings, including their phones, have been stolen. While this sounds all too predictable, the film quickly heads in an unexpected direction where no one is safe.
Unfortunately, the movie does have a few snags along the way, primarily in the first forty minutes or so. When the dry and awkward dialogue is combined with the stiff acting, it prevents viewers from making a connection to any of the cast. In addition, the film is recorded on single camera and has the feel and shakiness of a found footage, even though it is not. This also makes some of the scenes appear muddled and difficult to see, especially during the night scenes. Backwater, of course, is a low-budget Independent film, so the highest quality is not expected, yet some of these concerns could have been avoided regardless.
Even with these issues, Backwater still retains some redeeming qualities. The second half of the film picks up in pace and has better acting and dialogue than the first half. It felt as if the cast, including the director, got into their comfort zone and ran with it. The violent and gory scenes were handled well and were surprisingly cringe-worthy, in a positive way. Although the ending is a bit confusing, it was the highlight of the film, as well as brutal.
Backwater has its ups and downs, but is most definitely worth the watch for fans of Slasher and Survival Horror. It is obvious that Christopher Schrack can write fresh material with plot twists and create an exciting flick once he finds his rhythm. CrypticRock gives Backwater 3 out of 5 stars.