Redwood Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Stern Pictures
Written and directed by Tom Paton
2017, 80 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest world premiere on 24th August 2017
Mike Beckingham as Josh
Tatjana Nardone as Beth
Things you don’t expect to find in the woods, even in horror movies: vampires, and Nicholas Brendon. The usual hillbillies and zombies take the day off for Redwood, replaced by bloodsuckers and the disgraced Buffy the Vampire Slayer star. Not warned of the one-time Xander Harris’s return to acting, I almost fell out of my chair when he popped up from behind a tree as the creepy “stay the hell out of the woods” old man of the piece.
Is the presence of the rarely seen Brendon (old Criminal Minds episodes aside) enough to save Redwood from low-budget horror mediocrity? At first glance, its story is a well-told one. Hiking in the woods, a loving couple are stalked and terrorised by mysterious figures in the dark. Thankfully, they left the handheld cameras at home, and with them, a great portion of the risk of the film descending into the usual found footage mulch.
While Redwood doesn’t re-invent the wheel, it isn’t necessarily looking to do so either. It’s a slow-burn, devoting plenty of time to its lead characters before getting down to the scares. Josh and Beth are a likeable young couple, and while they do their share of tiresome bickering, it’s far better written than your average low-budget woods ‘em up. The pair’s patter is genuinely quite funny and touching, and Josh’s cancer diagnosis lends another different note to the dynamic than audiences might be used to. Redwood isn’t without its clichés – see Nicholas Brendon’s creepy old guy – but they’re well integrated and done with just enough invention to keep it interesting.
Once the slow-burn setup is done with, it’s on to the vampires, who thankfully don’t disappoint either. These sticky screeching nudists are more 30 Days of Night thanTwilight, chittering about amongst the trees and crawling around like rejects from The Descent. From the rural setting to the well-hidden animalistic monsters, there are more than a few early Neil Marshall vibes here, without ever approaching outright rip-off.
There are far worse directors one could take inspiration from, but Redwood’s character work and its building of tension is far more successful than the action or outright horror. By the time it enters its last twenty minutes, the rest of its path is a relatively predictable one, and something of a disappointment compared to the strong setup. At least there’s an amusing payoff to the Nicolas Brendon casting though. Enough to secure a comeback for the most annoying member of the Scooby gang? Almost certainly not, but I laughed anyway.
A vampire infused Wrong Turn, Redwood is an enjoyable twist on the backwoods horror movie. While it’s hardly original, it does just enough to elevate itself above the rest of the chaff. Didn’t expect to find that, either.