Hitting VOD and DVD tomorrow, July 7, from Uncork’d Entertainment is the Scottish slasher The Redwood Massacre. The film was written and directed by David Ryan Keith, who worked with a low budget and a small crew–only four people, including himself–to create a straight slasher that lacks in the story department, but more than succeeds in the gore and effects department.
Twenty years ago, a local farmer went crazy and brutally murdered his family. The crime has become legend, and the site of the deaths a macabre attraction for people to visit on the anniversary. Five friends trek into the woods to seek out the infamous Redwood House and spend the weekend partying, not knowing that the legend is indeed a terrifying reality.
The Redwood Massacre starts out very promisingly and different than what audiences have come to expect from similar films. The killer is revealed full-face in the first few minutes as he brutally and graphically hacks into a female victim’s body with a rusty axe. The shots of the victim dying indicate that this will in no way be a campy or funny film, but rather one that will try to shock you and keep you on your toes, because these filmmakers have a lot of blood on hand and they intend to use all of it.
And indeed, the kills are the best part of The Redwood Massacre. Using all practical effects from the look of it and gallons of the red stuff, Redwood certainly lives up to its name will all the deaths by axe, saw, billhook, or just the killer’s bare hands. Each kill is shown in almost all of its bloody glory, with some of them maybe going on a bit too long–but that’s not really a problem, is it?
Where the movie falters, though, is in several parts related to the story. This in turn affects the development of all the characters, the killer and the victims, leaving the audience satisfied in terms of the horror, but not the emotion. The origin story for the killer (who is credited as “The Evil Maniac”) is not explained well, and frankly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The crazy farmer in the campfire story supposedly heard voices telling him to kill his family–but was he just crazy or was there something else at work? The next part of the story indicates some kind of supernatural element that is also never fully explored. There’s a definite Jason Voorhees element in how the killer, supposedly a resurrected child, is now a very, very large man who disposes of anyone who enters his woods. But he’s not sympathetic, nor is he really all that scary. He’s just a big hulking figure who doesn’t talk and is going to kill you.
The killings and the beatings that Evil Maniac dishes out are incredibly brutal, but the audience doesn’t have a full well of emotion to draw from to really feel for the victims. Their relationships are set up at the beginning in the most one-dimensional way so that we know who they are (even though they don’t say the name of the main girl until 40 minutes into the movie) and that’s really as far as it goes. Though they are all definitely likable, with only person who is portrayed as being bitchy and annoying, it’s not enough. And really, you know from the beginning who is going to survive.
Another sad thing about the film is that none of the characters really grow or learn anything. None of them go through enough for the audience to identify with them. That is particularly true of the final girl. She never really earns the right to be called the final girl. She just happens to be the last woman standing.
The Redwood Massacre looks beautiful and was filmed with a creative eye, but it is overall not that successful. The impressive kills and gorgeous dark red blood don’t make up for the fact that the characters fall flat, and that the story and the killer’s origin story is not as fleshed out as it should have been.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director: David Ryan Keith
Writer: David Ryan Keith
Stars: Lisa Cameron, Mark Wood, Lisa Livingstone
Studio/ Production Co: Clear Focus Movies
Length: 82 Minutes