Although pretty formulaic, the sub-genre known as “survival horror” has produced some fairly competent films when done right (ex. Black Rock, Wolf Creek, Eden Lake”). If you’re unfamiliar, “survival horror” is typically a film that revolves around a group of folks trying to escape some type of predator, human or animal, and usually takes place in the wilderness or some backwoods-type setting. Backwater got that much right at least, but everywhere else it turned into a big old, boring mess.
The first feature length film from director Christopher Schrack, Backwater follows couple, Cass (Liana Werner-Gray) and Mark (Justin Tully) on a camping trip into the country for the weekend. During a quick swim, they hear a man call for help and after investigating seperately, each run into a shady Deputy Helm (Thomas Daniel) and an out-of-place fisherman, Glenn (Andrew Roth). Not long after the couple are terrorized by an unseen person and have to try and make it out alive.
As I said earlier, most films in the “survival horror” genre are pretty cut and dry, and Backwater was definitely no exception. I probably would have been okay with it sticking to the basic plot that most do, but this story tried way too hard to hit us with every twist and turn that they could. Even then I still could have forgiven the director/writer of the film but there was almost no explanation for the actions of any party involved. A lot of the decisions made by the couple were questionable, as well as their chemistry which didn’t help me, as the viewer, try to relate or sympathize with them for most of the movie.
The camera work itself became confusing at times when all of a sudden it felt like you were watching a found footage movie and were just waiting for the actors to acknowledge the camera guy. It threw me off for a better portion of the film. The pacing was a huge hindrance as well, and it really just became a boring movie towards the second act. As much as I tried, I didn’t feel any suspense at any point in the film.
With all the strikes that Backwater has against it, I hate to critique a film without trying to find at least one enjoyable thing about it, and all I can come up with is the practical effects with the little gore that it does have. Sadly, I think this story is another forgettable one in a sub-genre that really has to get inventive with each film that comes out.
BACKWATER is directed by Christopher Schrack and stars Liana Werner-Gray, Justin Tully, Andrew Roth and Thomas Daniel. BACKWATER will be on DVD on November 10th courtesy of Osiris Entertainment.