Backwoods (1987)

Directed by Dean Crow
Cinema Group VHS

Indiana is the quintessential Midwestern industrial wasteland — oil refineries, steel mills, and shitloads of corn. You’d never know it, but there’s more than gross smells, Splashin’ Safari, and corn in Indiana. Just ask Backwoods.

A regional rarity filmed deep in Hoosier-ville, Backwoods (known as Geek in the UK) was released straight to video in 1987. If you’re surprised that a low budget horror film from Indiana even exists, get ready to be SHOCKED — It’s actually not too bad. Although the film suffers from questionable choices, honest effort seeps throughout. The schizo nature makes for some blatant unevenness, but who says a Kenny-Loggins-meets-after-school-special soundtrack has to spoil the party? Not me. And certainly not the beheaded chickens.

Two nerds named Karen and Jamie (Karen: likes to skinny dip in poop water; Jamie: looks and sounds like Sam Raimi) bike out to a remote wooded area for some fun in the sun. Namely, camping. After a half hour of walking, Forest Ranger small talk, random chicken corpses, and tent love-ins, K & J wake to an old man named Eben standing over a little girl with a shotgun. The girl is choking. Here’s where the movie switches gears. Since Jamie is a doctor, he saves the girl’s life with an emergency tracheotomy. Grateful Eben invites the campers to his place for some dinner. Following some moonshine appreciation, Karen and Jamie meet William, Eben’s beastly geek son. What happens next is inevitable.

While it might sound like a straight-up inbred slasher, Backwoods leans more towards a rickety drama with an incredibly violent finale. Since that tense finale is so well presented, it’s even easier to overlook the film’s slight problems. We go from spot-on atmosphere (the bird’s eye view of the forest is a fave for director Dean Crow) to laughably bad dramatics (Eben and Jamie’s male bonding while “coon” hunting) to that repulsive soundtrack in the blink of an eye. It’s all delivered with decent acting, bad 80s dialogue (“Word processors, fax machines…it’s a scary world out there…”), and a cast of six that you can’t help but like. I could’ve done without the scene of a live chicken beheading, but what can you do? This is Indiana, after all.

Pretty consistent throughout, even when night falls towards the end. For once, somebody remembered to bring the lights. The mono sound was crisper than most.

Not a one.

The grating jump between goofy trash and direct intensity is impossible to ignore. Despite that, Backwoods succeeds in overcoming its cheap origins, delivering a few moments of capable tension in-between the melodramatic cheese. You’ve got nothing to lose.