TITLE: The Redwood Massacre
YEAR RELEASED: 2014
DIRECTOR: David Ryan Keith
CAST: Mark Wood, Lisa Cameron, Lisa Livingstone
REVIEW BY ANDREW GARVEY
From the makers of 2011’s quirky Scottish horror comedy Attack of the Herbals (an enjoyable film that never seemed to quite know whether to go for laughs or scares) the Redwood Massacre is a more straightforward proposition – an old-fashioned backwoods slasher.
Mark and his irritating new girlfriend Kirsty, his ex-girlfriend Jessica (sporting some distractingly ridiculous painted on eyebrows) her friend Pamela (who fancies mountain biking latecomer Bruce) are all on a camping trip to stay, on the twentieth anniversary, at the site of the locally infamous Redwood Massacre where a local farmer slaughtered his family and killed himself.
As set-ups go, it’s as basic and derivative as it is silly.
Lost in the woods, the group helpfully (plot wise, not for the characters) can’t get a mobile phone signal. They’re also not alone. There’s – of course – a hooded, axe-wielding killer on the loose. And things get bloody, very quickly.
A practical effects gorefest, there’s blood spatter and gut-ripping aplenty, even if, oddly, a lot of the red stuff is so dark it looks oddly like black treacle.
The acting is fine, although the murderous farmer in a flashback/fireside tale scene (there just HAD to be one didn’t there?) strays too far into wild-eyed scenery-chewing to be even vaguely threatening.
The hooded killer is far better. Big, strong, prolific, slow-moving and silent, he’s firmly of the Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees variety, right down to the continual (and overdone) curious animal head tilt. His mask, of sack cloth and stitching looks great.
And yes, he’s not as easily defeated as the would-be survivor girl thinks. Has she never seen a horror film? Everything builds, as it was always going to, and as it should for a film that so strictly follows the ‘80s slasher formula, a confrontation between the two of them.
Director, writer, director of photography (he clearly enjoys filming the beautiful Scottish countryside) sound and film editor, David Ryan Keith certainly put a huge amount of work into this and given its meagre budget (a piffling £30,000), the Redwood Massacre is an impressively polished film.
Keith and his tiny crew (no, they’re not munchkins, there just weren’t many of them) deserve huge credit for stretching so little money so far and making something that looks far better than films with budgets infinitely bigger.
With most of the action taking place during daylight there’s limited scope for any real scares. Some of the action sequences look a little too hokey and the script’s slavish devotion to the genre makes things predictable.
But when judged against it’s two sets of peers – contemporary low budget horror and the slashers of three decades ago that it’s something of a love letter to – the Redwood Massacre is a minor triumph, reliably entertaining and just plain fun to watch.