FILM REVIEW: THE REDWOOD MASSACRE
Release date: TBA
82 mins | TBA
Writers: David Ryan Keith
Director: David Ryan Keith
Cast: Lisa Cameron, Lisa Livingstone, Mark Wood, Rebecca Wilkie, Adam Coutts
East Scotland is taking a stab at classically styled shoestring slasher horror this year with a locally produced film called The Redwood Massacre. The story is very familiar to gorehounds: friends on camping trip meet with eldritch horror from beyond the grave, gory shenanigans ensue. However, its decidedly Scottish sensibilities bring a wee summat to the show.
Of course, the main thing any horror fan is going to be wondering about this production is: does it bring the gore? Yes, it brings the gore. For those looking for a breather from all the haunted house CGI-fests currently hitting it big on the wide releases, the practical effects here are many and plentiful with the blood in a callback to the excesses of 80s flicks. This is one of those films that clearly knows what its core audience has turned up to see and so dispenses liberally from beginning to end and with a zippy pace and not so much time spent building up characters. No nonsense, you could say.
Despite the well-trodden setup, have to say the team have managed to get some seriously suspenseful sequences worked in thanks in part to using the set – a run of the mill Aberdeen farmhouse you’d see pretty much anywhere while out driving in the area – to its full creepy potential. Kudos to those involved with cinematography and a double highfive to whoever came up with one particularly wince-worthy moment towards the beginning. You’ll know it when you see it.
And speaking of scenes… In particular, there’s one extended chase sequence in the farm complex towards the middle of the movie that was actually completely believable in terms of how an ordinary 20-something would react in a horror movie situation. Definitely the highlight of the film. Kirsty (Lisa Livingstone), the jealous girlfriend character, was scripted as being a bit too “movie unlikable” in the beginning, messing with the naturalness of her dialogue plus the dialogue of the characters interacting with her, but in all, it’s a pretty typical fare for indie slashers. Definitely have to give Livingstone props for conveying a real sense of sinking fear towards the end though, especially during the heart to heart in the house.
In fact, that’s a major part of the film’s Scottish sensibility – the bleakness. Sure if asked what East Scotland in particular brings to the production, a viewer could point to the setting, the cultural flotsam and jetsam you’re inevitably going to get from having a film in a certain setting and yes, the comedy. However, American horror films, even indies, even decidedly-gloomy films from the Hostel playbook, never quite manage to capture the bleakness of a Scottish or Northern English-made pastoral horror film; think: Sightseers, The Borderlands, etc etc. They also tend to have just the right hint of sardonic quirkiness to keep from going completely off the deep end like the French extreme horror of the 2000s. Don’t even know if it’s entirely intentional most of the time. Blame the weather.
In all, though it doesn’t break any new ground, The Redwood Massacre is an indie slasher worth checking out for those with a yen for classic low-budget splatter. I, for one, will be interested to see the next film these guys put out, especially since this is apparently their first production after a series of health and safety films. The Redwood Massacre will be heading to a few film festivals this upcoming year, plus word from the showing on Friday was that they’d just found a distributor, so catch it on a DVD near you.