Get me, I’m probably one of the first people in the world to see in its entirety, a brand new horror film – a movie that few others have yet to see. Well, that is after the production team, probably some of the actors, the test showing audience, those involved in the artwork, the soundtrack music and the other bloggers & websites that have been given the opportunity to view the early screener on Vimeo. Ok, so possibly I’m a little further down the food chain than my publicist (I.e. Me) would have you believe. Though at least I’ve seen it before the general
unwashed proletariat public – so yes, get me and my self important delusions of grandeur…..
I first wrote a piece on the making of this particular film a couple of months ago when I first heard about a local creative advertising and video production agency who also make their own feature films, called Clear Focus Movies. In particular, I was rather excited to learn that their latest horror feature, The Redwood Massacre was nearing the end of it’s post-production (that’s complex movie speak to those who don’t know about such things – stick with me & you’ll go far) and that it would soon be ready for release. After much pestering, whining and threats on my part warning that I would stand in a corner and sulk until they agreed, the producer Lorraine Keith finally relented and approved that not only would I receive an invitation to the press screening in September (the night before the very first public screening) at the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen, but that she would send me a link at the earliest opportunity, to the completed film for an early review.
Now I know what you are thinking “Oh that’s alright then, matey boy, an invite to the premier & early screener – hmm, sort of guarantees a good review of the movie then, doesn’t it?” – and I can see your point, but you would be incorrect. For the fact is that this genre of horror, namely the ‘young and impossibly good looking campers in the woods hunted by a vicious sadistic killer Gore-fest’ quite simply hasn’t ever been one of my particular favourite sub-topics of horror movie, quite the contrary in fact. I personally find the slasher film formula boringly over-familiar, cliched and lacking in genuine excitement. Therefore Lorraine and her director husband David, were not guaranteed any sort of positive review, no way, Jose. Besides which, I know in certain walks of life that I’m distinctly easy and cheap, but when it comes to this blogging and reviewing business, well I’m your regular paragon of blooming virtue – honest guvnor and all that your honour.
So on Monday of this week Lorraine took a chance that there may be a window in my social calendar (don’t laugh, I went out one evening last month I’ll have you know) and told me that the super duper online screener was ready to be viewed by yours truly. After reading her 15,500 word contract that essentially suggested that nowhere in Scotland would be safe for me to hide from her, her hubby and film crew friends if I decided to share the location of the online source, I agreed to her conditions. I did think that making me sign the declaration of secrecy in the blood of my first-born was a slightly extreme request – but the joke is on them as my daughter is away in Ireland so I used the blood of my second born. Another victory to me methinks…..
It was late in the evening when I sat down with the love of my life (my iPad) and the second love of my life (a vodka and lemonade) and began watching The Redwood Massacre. So before I let loose with what I actually thought about the possible merits of the movie, let me remind you, or tell you for the first time if you couldn’t be bothered to waste your life on my previous blog articles, what the story briefly is about…..
” For five adventurous friends, visiting the legendary murder site of the Redwood farm has all the hallmarks of being an exciting and thrilling camping weekend away.
A popular site for revellers and party goers, each year on the exact date of the famous local family massacre, people from around the country head out to the site to have fun and scare each other.
Events take a bloody turn for the worse when the innocent campers discover the Redwood myth is in fact a horrible bloody reality, which turns the unsuspecting victims into prey for a mysterious axe wielding maniac that has remained dormant for 20 years.”
I will say this immediately and without reservation, this movie is an absolute joy of a slashing gore-fest – in other words, I loved it! The writer & director, David Keith has previously gone on record to say that his intention was for those who see this film is to experience “a fun 80 minute bloody movie that will entertain from beginning to end….” And boy does this deliver. From the initial moments when we are introduced to the painfully bloody consequences for a young lady in the woods after she becomes a little overly acquainted with the axe of our very own Redwood serial killer, we are transported on a tale of blood, guts and at times, deliciously claustrophobic terror.
There is no attempt here to add any political or social commentary on today’s society and particularly the young people within it. Nor does it have any pretensions of intricate or philosophical dialogue between the cast, and that isn’t meant as a criticism because what we have here with The Redwood Massacre is a chilling authentic old fashioned slasher horror with multiple violent deaths and gallons ( and I mean oodles of gallons) of blood and gore.
What we also have is a movie serial killer that, given the chance may well provide horror fans worldwide something to talk excitedly about, such is the ‘menacing killer quality’ of this bad, bad man. I’m not saying that the bad man is going to achieve the iconic status of a Jason Voorhees, Leatherface or Michael Myers – after all they have had 40 years to gain their esteemed levels of notoriety. However, in The Red Wood Massacre, we have a genuinely chilling slasher killer who essentially ticks all the boxes for what makes a good genre killer; he has a previously harmless (scarecrow) mask now transplanted into terrorising undertones, an iconic weapon here with his axe (though it is safe to say that he has a plethora of other killing implements that he just can’t decide upon which is his favourite, a rather spectacular body count and an inability to stay harmed for long – even after a few gunshots to the head.
He is a killing machine that seems to take a very special pride in using a variety of grotesque and imaginative methods of killing, gutting and disemboweling his victims, and then saving the various body parts for, well, who knows what? He’s a brilliant character who may not say much, but his actions speak far louder than any words could, after all, he’s not much for conversation – well except for the odd guttural scream or two from his victims in response to the thrusting of his hands into ones chest to pull out ones still beating heart…..Honest to god, I would love to know how many gallons of blood and gore had to be ordered to make the incredibly authentic effects……that is, if they are actually effects……
I’ve mentioned the gore quota, there is gore in this movie, and buckets of it at that. I can just hear the conversation that took place back at Clear Focus Movies HQ….
“Yes that’s right, I’m directing a horror movie in the North of Scotland and I’d like some blood, flesh and gore effects delivering please”
“How much do I need? ……er Lorraine, how much do you reckon, a couple of Tupperware tubs full?
(Mocking whispers can be heard in the background)
“We’d like a truck load of it please…… & make sure it’s a big truck!”
Gore lovers will not be disappointed with both the quantity of the stuff but also with the explicit sound effects that accompany each appearance of the stuff. Now I can take or leave gore-fest movies, the horror genre for me is much more than a collection of splatter upon splatter productions – something occasionally a few of my fellow horror aficionados would be better to take heed of. However in The Redwood Massacre, I will freely admit that on this occasion, the blood and guts quota is exceptionally well done and for some lovers of the stuff, it will be deliciously nauseatingly effective. I counted at least 5 or 6 times when my reactions were simply ‘Awww nooooo, that’s just horrible!!!!!!!’ – excellent.
It has to be said that a film shot in the North East of Scotland couldn’t really help but look good, after all, this part of the world is most definitely gods own. That being said, this is a movie that is wonderfully shot. The camerawork is truly stunning, not just in the outdoor sequences but in the dim and claustrophobic interior scenes which add an intense layer of added terror. The colours and textures of the film are a feast for the eyes. Besides looking good, it all sounds great with a beautifully evocative soundtrack score by Leah Kardos that adds the perfect level of atmospheric chills to the overall experience.
The acting too is of a good quality (not something that can always be said for low-budget independent productions) particularly from Lisa Cameron as Pamela and Rebecca Wilkie as Jessica. In addition, once again The Redwood Massacre ticks another good slasher box by having a character that is so unlikeable and unrelatable that I was wondering how long it would take (if at all) it would be until she well and truly crossed the bad man’s path. So credit should be given to Lisa Livingstone for having the balls to make her character so bloody annoying – after all, another essential tasty slasher ingredient should be at least one or two people in ones movie that one hopes will be killed – and usually the more inventive the better. However, I’m not necessarily saying that her character dies, you’ll have to see the film for yourself.
I don’t want to sound overly gushing and hyperbolic towards this movie and leave you with the idea that the film doesn’t have the odd minus point, because in my humble opinion, it isn’t perfect. For all the excellent interplay between the main players I would have preferred a little more detailed back stories for the main characters. We know for example that Jessica Is Mark’s ex-girlfriend and that his extremely annoying and whining current girlfriend has also come along for the weekend, but apart from that we know little else about them or the rest of the group and therefore the emotional investment in their safety isn’t quite as high as it could have been. There is also a situation with a helpful but dim motorist that feels a little too easily contrived and an appearance from the father of a previous victim that should be far more weighty and important, but ultimately adds little to the overall story & in fact I felt it distracted slightly from the pacing of proceedings.
These however are very minor negatives to what overall is a excellently bloody cinematic experience. This is a fine slasher film that for the most part is excellently paced and will have you hooked from the very first minute to the very last.
All that is left for me to say that is that thanks to those fucking farmers, no one is safe!
I would give the movie 8 out of 10
The Facebook page for the movie can be found RIGHT HERE
Tickets are (or at least were yesterday, because they’re selling quickly) available for the local Aberdeen premier at the wonderful Belmont Filmhouse on the 19th September. If you live in the area then go to the link to book tickets at http://www.belmontfilmhouse.com/showing/the-redwood-massacre/