Backwoods (1987)

A secret hidden by time that will reap its horrible revenge.

Year of Release: 1987
Also Known As: Geek
Genre: Horror
Rated: R
Running Time: 86 minutes (1:26)
Director: Dean Crow


Christine Noonan ... Karen
Brad Armacost ... Jamie
Dick Kreusser ... Eben
Jack O'Hara ... William
Leslie Denise ... Beth


It's a trip of terror when two campers cross paths with a reclusive mountain man named Eben. In the days that follow, the couple is slowly drawn into Eben's dark and troubled world - a world of memories and a secret too hideous to reveal. Intrigued by the mystery, Jamie and Karen wander through the thick woods, gradually coming to realize that someone, slowly and relentlessly is stalking them.


Backwoods, remindin' us that most folks love it when you talk like a local, so if you ever find yourself visiting rural Kentucky, remember, the regional term for "henhouse" is "brothel."

But speakin' of things that'll get the book thrown atcha in Judge Wapner's Animal Court, have you noticed how it's gettin' to where you can't hardly go fishin' without violatin' 126 state an federal laws before you even dunk your hook in the water? I kid you not, Billy Hilliard an me stopped to grab some tackle at Walleye's Topless Dancin' & Bait Shop last week, an about three minutes after I'd stuffed the regulations in my back pocket the mass of that thing'd caused my pants to droop so bad I looked like I was scalpin' tickets at an Eminem concert. You ever sit down an actually read this thing? They got rules for what time of day you can fish, where you can fish, what you can fish *for*, how long they gotta be to keep, how many you can keep, how many you can keep *above* a certain length, an after about three hours of crammin' for your angler's final exam you're STILL prolly not gonna know you can't fish for brook trout in Leech Creek with live bait between March 6th an April 18th cause the fish're givin' up worms for Lent this year an it'd be wrong to tease 'em.

I dunno about the rest of ya, but I miss the good ole days where you could just fish until the sun peeled off the top three layers of your face an then dump your catch in the sink next to the baby for the wife to clean. Yup, things sure have changed; can't even fish durin' spawnin' season no more ever since the salmon hired lawyers an got an injunction against beanin' 'em in the head with spoon lures while they're too distracted to react to outside stimuli. It's pitiful. An I'll be the first to admit it: I ain't always been on the front lines in the fight to stop the spread of anglin' authoritarianism like I shoulda been, cause when they came for the treble hooks I said nothing because I never used 'em, an when they came for the lead weights I said nothing cause I usually fish with a bobber, but this time they've gone too far.

See, it's like this - Billy an me were out on Lake Gunkamucka mindin' our own business, checkin' on the progress of Fannie Ogglesby's all-over tan, plinkin' Aesop Marlin on the hinder with the BB gun when he'd lean over to rebait his hook, an occasionally tossin' a crappie in the bucket to take back to Blaine Schwartzberg for the aquarium at the Rural Mural (I may be gainfully employed at the Videodome these days, but I ain't so loaded that I'm gonna turn down $5 a fish).

Anyway, next thing I know Amos Anderson pulls up next to us in his Duckworth an starts askin' us stupid questions about our fish finder, something like: "You boys mind explainin' to me why there's a drunk party balloon swimming around the lake?"

"Cheaper than condoms," I explained, which by all rights shoulda been the end of the conversation, but oh no, that would've been too rational.

"Now listen you two, I want that fish turned loose this instant. I've already been tipped off about a local animal rights group plottin' to hijack Walleye's bait shipment the week of the big crappie tournament, and this is exactly the sorta thing that could cause the situation to escalate," he whispered, lookin' around to make sure no rogue P.E.T.A. cells were listenin'.

"Oh come on, Amos! Everybody else is usin' fish finders, what's the big deal?" I protested.

"ELECTRONIC fish finders, yes," he clarified, 'sif I didn't know that.

"Alright, fine, I'll attach a Tamagotchi to the line, will that make ya happy?" I compromised.

"Using floats to track school movements is against the law, and I *think* you both know that," he reiterated, gettin' progressively pissier.

"So's nude sunbathin', but I see you didn't give Fannie any trouble," I said, gesturing towards Fannie's exposed namesake.

"You're MAIMING the wildlife!" he finally hollered after all the veins in his head'd bulged out an formed a topographical map of the Amazon River Basin.

"I suppose you think Jaws got a raw deal too?! That fish spiked me three times before I got 'im off the hook, he's a menace!" I declared.

Things started gettin' a little heated after that, so bein' the voice of reason that he is, Billy realized he was gonna hafta toss me overboard an hold my head under for a minute or so for Amos' personal safety, but bottom line - $78 fine an a 90 day suspension of my fishin' privileges. I'll tell ya somethin' else, too - I think Cabela's has the state legislature in their pocket; I mean, think about it: how many $349.99 fish finders do you spoze they'd sell if us workin' folks could buy 'em 100 for a dollar? This whole deal smells funny to me, an I intend to get to the bottom of it.

Apparently I was makin' some pretty specific threats against Amos' Forest Service issue Blazer while I was regurgitatin' moss, cause Billy insisted on keepin' an eye on me so I couldn't sneak out an do anything patriotic - could've at least let me dry off before duct tapin' me to my barcalounger, but I guess he meant well. Anyway, that's how I ended up checkin' out this flick called Backwoods, which's about a kindly old bumpkin who lives out in the sticks an tries his durnedest to be a good neighbor despite havin' a retarded son who's about one step up from cannibalism an enjoys chewin' the heads offa any livin' thing he can fit in his mouth. You'd think a story like this woulda been told before 1987 since it's one we can all relate to, but I guess Hollywood didn't wanna show us that side of ourselves until they were sure we were mature enough to handle it - those butt nuggets at the MPAA are always doin' stuff like that. Anyhow, I plucked a few metaphysical morsels outta this baby for all you learned savages to gorge on before we get to the main event, so let's get to 'em. First, including characters with a drawl in your film is a seamless method of paddin' out your runtime. Second, never get too grabby with a woman, lest that whole "get her hooks into you" expression cease to be figurative. An third, a wild animal baring its teeth ain't nearly as scary as a human being baring their lack of them.

The movie begins with this couple (Karen an Jamie) ridin' their bikes down the highway like Mormon talent scouts on their way to a ranger station in Kidneystone National Park, where they stop to ask about the best places to have sex in the woods without gettin' killed by weirdos with facial deformities or accidentally rollin' in poison oak an gettin' mother nature's clap all over their nipples 'n bits. Course they're from the city so they don't listen to the ranger when he tells 'em not to venture into the Valley of the Cleftskulls, an so they go stompin' through some hillbilly's skank weed field an stop to make the sign of the diabetic swamp walrus, just assumin' all the severed chicken heads they're passin' along the way are the work of a frustrated line cook tryin' to reverse engineer the Colonel's 11 original herbs an spices. Only when mornin' rolls around they awaken to shotgun blasts outside their tent an find the lead blower of a local jug band (Eben) standin' over the body of a little girl (Beth) who looks like she just passed out on a milk jug fulla huckleberries. Jamie manages to reopen 'er windpipe with his fancy medical schoolin' an Eben's so grateful that he decides to invite his new friends over for Sloppy Crows, an so everybody moseys on down to Chateau Six-toe an washes down dinner with some of Eben's 300 proof multi-purpose moonshine that doubles as embalming fluid, while Eben explains that last names're for stuck up pricks an sings hillbilly spiritual songs. The next mornin' Karen wakes up feelin' a bit ripe so she heads down to the pond to take the beaver for a swim, only while she's gettin' dressed this slobbery mansquatch (William) shows up an starts checkin' out 'er melon patch until she freaks out an wee wee wees all the way home. Elmer Chud's hot on 'er trail though, an it's lookin' like things're about to get a little wild an woolly, but fortunately when he comes runnin' up to the house we find out he's just one of Eben's dimfolk an that he's perfectly harmless once you slap 'im around a little bit. Eben explains that Will's just a good ole boy never meanin' no harm, an the two of 'em head over to his wife's grave so William can apologize for scarin' the normies. Jamie's pretty sure they needa get the heck outta there before they end up bein' bottled an sold as suburban bourbon at the Kentucky state fair, but Karen's all fascinated now an wants to make like Jane Goodall an study the Hicks in the Mist so she can write a book an go on the Oprah Winfrey Show, so she stays at the house to keep an eye on Beth while Eben an Jamie chug some more firewater an go lookin' for a raccoon to turn into Rabie Back Ribs.

Eventually they down a 'coon an Eben takes the opportunity to tell Jamie about how Daniel Goon was a perfectly normal mutant until one day the family huntin' dog grabbed 'im by the head an jostled 'im all around like the paint shaker at Hammer Time Hardware til his brains got scrambled into the Gary Busey Configuration. After that the boy was examined an determined to be "not right" by one Dr. Hank Hill, as Will soon demonstrated by breakin' his stepmama's neck for refusin' to breastfeed 'im just cause he was 14 an had teeth like a bone saw. Needless to say, Jamie's startin' to wonder if leavin' Karen an Beth alone with Snarly Davidson was one of his brighter ideas, so he an Eben head back to the house while Karen takes 'er shirt off some more an inspires the caveman to greater heights through the use of his primitive tool. He tries givin' 'er the bedroom eyes from outside the window but she's playin' hard to get, so when Eben an Jamie emerge from the treeline, Scrawny Bean hops up on the roof an grabs 'er by the hair as she bolts out the front door, forcin' Jamie to put a round of No. 4 bird shot into his chest. Fortunately Methro Bodine is protected by a patch of matted hair bound together by various bodily secretions, but the sight of his boy bein' shotgunned like a case of Natural Ice at a trailer park barbecue is too much for Eben, who suffers a lethal coronary infarction bolstered by decades of eatin' nothin' but animals killed crossing the highway. Wild Bill is P.O.'d, an he proceeds to pound the eight years at Johns Hopkins outta Jamie's brain an tries chewin' his neck off until Karen takes a shot at 'im an accidentally buries a slug in Beth's goldilocks, further reducing Will's dating pool an makin' 'im madder'n an Alabama Senator on Sadie Hawkins Day. Then Karen hasta go duke it out with Hillbilly Slim an splash around in the pond some more so 'er shirt'll get all sucked up against 'er figure until she manages to escape an find the park ranger dead in his Jeep as a result of a freak shaving accident. She can't find his keys or his gun, but she does find a tackle box in the backseat an immediately starts stringin' a gnarly web of fishin' line an steelhead hooks between a coupla trees like a redneck Macaulay Culkin, after which she lays in wait an prepares for all out Panther Martin Fu. Prolly better put a lid on it right here, but if you're even thinkin' about skippin' out on the end of this one lemme just say: Backwoods was made the same year as Hellraiser, an in the last five minutes it shows.

Damn me to the Portland suburbs for sayin' it, but I kinda like this one. Naturally the distributors have comparisons to Deliverance plastered all over the packaging but, as you've likely assumed, that's weapons grade snake oil, as the movies are similar only in featuring city folks menaced in the woods by mountain men, and in a bit of a role reversal it's actually the bigger budget studio film that is the more graphic of the two. The hillbillies in Deliverance are far more sadistic than the characters in Backwoods, with two-thirds of its hillfolk being relatively amiable people who just happen to be saddled with the care of a lunatic born of extensive huntin' dog-induced brain damage. It's also not likely to satisfy people going in expecting a Slasher flick, as it owes far more to The Wolf Man than Friday the 13th with its borderline sympathetic "monster" created as result of an accident, with said monster having only a rudimentary understanding of what it means to be human, rather than consciously seeking to fulfill a quest for revenge or operating on a baseline level of sociopathy. You could certainly say it was inspired by Friday the 13th and all the clones released in its wake, and that it no doubt wanted to be the next low budget Horror-in-the-woods flick to take off and make millions of dollars on a minimal investment, but the movie itself has very little in common with titles like Madman or Don't Go in the Woods beyond its setting. Unfortunately, having been made for roughly 75 cents near the end of the Slasher cycle, the flick never gained much traction as the fad was beginning to peter out by that time, but it's a little strange to me that a flick titled "Backwoods" from 1987 hasn't experienced much of a (re)surgence, considering the current nostalgia-driven demand for undiscovered gems from the '80s. Admittedly, it's a little slow, and it's got some problems, but when we're getting "Ultimate" 3-disc editions of movies like Blood Rage loaded with special features, you'd think some film geek working for one of the 625 streaming services would shell out the $8 licensing fee to show this thing.

All the same, some folks'd argue that movies like this one are forgotten (or simply never discovered) for a reason, so we should prolly take a minute to review the toe-tag on this thing to determine if the cause of death was just. The plot is easily the area rifest with riffing opportunities, with its first big "wtf" moment coming within the first five minutes when the couple tells the ranger they're siblings. As the movie goes on you'll notice additional situations where things simply aren't spelled out as clearly as they should be, forcing you to make assumptions about what's transpired. So with regard to the sibling thing I'm wondering if maybe there was supposed to be a scene explaining why Karen tells the ranger Jamie's her brother that either never got shot, or was otherwise ruined when the film was developed. It's possible they were making an inside joke about rural stereotypes, but when it's one of the earliest scenes in the movie and it's never explained, it comes across as a flub... or maybe they're really siblings, who the heck knows. It's also not at all clear that Karen's errant shotgun blast kills Beth, as the character simply disappears from the movie after the shot, giving the viewer the impression that there were supposed to be some pick-up shots that just never got completed. I'm not going to bring up the third such scene as it would spoil the ending, but let's just say that my suspension of disbelief pretty well snapped while being fed that nonsense. The acting is surprisingly decent, particularly considering it was the first film role for every single member of the cast, as well as the *last* for half of them (including the lead). Dick Kreusser exaggerates his rubery a bit as the backwards but kindly frontiersman, Eben, and our two protagonists from the city are a bit green, but all things considered everyone involved no doubt gave a much better performance than they were paid for. Jack O'Hara's portrayal of William might come off as goofy to some, but considering what the character *is* I think his enthusiasm does the character justice, particularly given the fact that his entire performance had to be done without a single speaking line; it's honestly pretty impressive what he's able to do with nothing but facial expressions. The dialogue is even reasonably competent, with a script that features some cute one-liners like: "Right now I am having a very unsatisfactory relationship with my ass," and "As a fellow chicken I must advise you to get the hell out of here before you and our whole damn family end up on tomorrow's menu. Heads will roll, I assure you."

Normally this is where I'd give a list of relevant credits for the cast, but in what I believe to be a first in all the years I've been making these lists, there are no relevant genre credits for *anyone* in the cast before or after this movie.

The special effects are fairly sparse, providing another distinction between the film and the various forest Slashers it's often compared to, as those flicks are always loaded with gore. Backwoods features very little blood and, in fact, one of its three kills takes place off camera without so much as silhouette or aftermath shot to show the audience proof of said death. Almost all the blood/gore is packed into the last five minutes of the movie, and it's pretty well crafted, if wisely concealed by a certain degree of darkness: we've got the mutilated throat of the ranger found dead in his vehicle, and the scene where William goes after Karen but finds himself caught in her Spider Baby-esque web of hooks - both of which are fairly gross and well executed. The rest of the blood is shown during daylight hours and is a bit bright in color, but again - for the flick's budget, they did a pretty good job, and even attempted one slightly complicated effect. Do be advised, however, that a live chicken is killed for the sake of the director's art. The shooting locations are the high point, with well-chosen sections of forest that're thick enough to lend authenticity, but not so thick that they become an untraversable obstacle for the film crew. Eben's house in the sticks is also excellent and adds a great deal of atmosphere and credibility to the notion that the protagonists are a *long* way from home, and does so in a way that never comes across quite as convincingly with a set built specifically for the film. Bottom line - excellent rural aesthetic both indoors and out. The soundtrack is fairly suspenseful and largely effective in its attempts to generate a sense of dread. Every track utilizes a synthesizer at its core, and with the exception of one track that's extremely cheesy and sounds like something you'd hear on a sitcom targeted at young adults, most of the music is alright. That said, there are only four or five tracks, which results in each of them repeating at least once throughout the course of the movie (including that particularly goofy one), so the repetition is a little damaging to the film's atmosphere, but it's nothing that completely destroys the mood. Overall, I think the production values are *barely* good enough to earn a passing grade (failing on plot and soundtrack, but passable everywhere else), and that the flick's entertainment value is a few points above the pass/fail threshold as well. It's a bit slow, and kinda tame, but if you're into Horror-in-the-woods flicks you'll probably find something to like about it - just don't go in expecting a Slasher film.

Rating: 64%