Unfortunately, a bit of a confusing mess.
While holidaying in the Basque region of Spain, two couples discover achild whose hands are severely misshapen. The child has been gravelymistreated, and, as a result, cannot communicate. The two couplesreluctantly decide to rescue her and report her circumstances to theauthorities. However, severe weather and the denseness of the forestsurrounding their holiday home make it impossible for them to make aquick getaway. Soon, the local inhabitants become aware that the girlis missing, and they rightly suspect the holiday-makers of taking her.Suspicions and paranoia begin to fester, and it isn't long beforeviolence erupts. The villagers demand the little girl's return, and herrescuers refuse to give her up. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse ensues,making a return to normalcy impossible for everyone involved.
The premise for The Backwoods is an intriguing one. The idea of howquickly basic human instincts make situations spiral out of control, isnearly always used to good effect in movies. For any writer/director,this concept opens up a myriad of opportunities to shock, as well as tofascinate. This fact probably accounts for why this device is amuch-overused set piece. Films of this genre, when well executed, areguaranteed, at the very least, cult-classic status (e.g., Deliveranceand Straw Dogs). However, when poorly executed, the resultant films canresemble a confusing, farcical mess. Unfortunately, The Backwoods is anexample of the latter.
The Backwoods starts off well, trying to develop the main characters,before violence eventually erupts. However, what we have learned oftheir character in the initial scenes gives us little insight as to whythe characters react as they do to the situation they are dealt. Forexample, Oldman's character, Paul, is the only one of the four maincharacters who is thoroughly determined to save the girl. At no timedoes he falter, even when he could save his life by telling thevillagers where the disfigured girl is. This character trait does nothold true, because, up to this point, his character has appearedarrogant and overbearing, with little or no regard for those aroundhim. Having said this, the four leads all give solid, believableperformances, and, for the most part, cover up, rather than expose, theinconsistencies in their characters' nature.
Apart from flaws in the development of central characters, this moviehas other problems. First, the deformity that the little girl has seemstoo ludicrous to be believable. If you have ever seen Batman Returns,and you remember the misshapen hands that The Penguin had, you will getthe idea. As a viewer, the fact that the little girl has "Penguinhands" makes it hard to take her plight seriously. And finally, themain reason why this movie is farcical rather than stimulating is themovie styles to which it chooses to pay homage. I can understand thestylish, 1970s-vibe it tries to recreate, and I can also appreciate thenods directed toward Peckinpah and Boorman. But, what I can'tunderstand is why the writer and director chose to insert a SergioLeone-style climactic scene. Up until the final scene, the movie hastried to be dark and thought-provoking. Up until the final moments ithas tried to teach the audience something about the human psyche; ithas failed miserably, but it has tried. And then, all of the sudden,ten minutes before the end, you have a man-on-man gunfight, reminiscentof a spaghetti western. This ultimate fight appears to be forced and isvery much out of place. The only thing that links this final scene towhat has preceded it, is the fact that the ultimate scene's outcome isas confusing and pointless as the rest of the movie.
In short, The Backwoods is a jumbled mess, which is full ofinconsistencies in character, plot, and style. The only factor thatrescues The Backwoods from being a complete disaster are the proficientperformances of its lead actors. If you want to watch a film thatexplores basic human instincts, why not try Magnolia Pictures', TheSignal. You will find that film a lot more entertaining and a lot lessconfusing than this shambolic piece of film-making.