“There are hunters and prey. That’s the only truth in this world.” In a last-ditch effort to rescue their dying relationship, Lucy (Virginie Ledoyen) and Norman (Paddy Considine) go on a trip to the Basque mountains of Spain, spurred by their friends Paul (Gary Oldman) and Isabel (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón)’s recent purchase of a country house there. The two couples drive out together, and it doesn’t take long before nerves begin to grate. Paul is intense, Norman is plainly insecure, Lucy is frequently ill and Isabel just wants to relax. When they step into a pub and are greeted by townspeople lustfully staring Lucy down, Norman all but loses it, making a poor first impression on the locals. A worse and infinitely more dangerous impression is soon made when the couples discover an abused-looking and physically deformed young girl locked inside a cabin, trembling, terrified and unable to speak. They bring her back to Paul’s country house and try to figure out their options, incurring the wrath of armed locals who will take the girl back at any cost.
A gripping white-knuckle thriller set in the 1970s, The Backwoods takes a caustic look at the carnage that can come out of cultural misunderstandings, supercharged with intensity and grit. While it takes inspiration from the likes of Straw Dogs and Deliverance, and is very much a love letter to the edgy thrillers of the ’70s, The Backwoods breaks out from homage by re-working the core themes it references from earlier films into something distressingly pertinent to our times, while functioning as a searing discourse on the ideals of masculinity and the desperations of violence. It is a striking-as-all-hell debut for writer/director Koldo Serra, a lifelong film maniac who has clearly been influenced by people like Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and Nicolas Roeg. He directs with a confidence and control that is astounding. In recent years, many films have tried to capture the feel of confrontational ’70s classics, but The Backwoods takes the sand-blasted cake, its cinematography (by Unax Mendia, who also shot Eugenio Mira’s The Birthday), editing and blocking, all stunning, appearing as if through a time warp. Have a look at the trailer online and you will get shivers. Were it not for its contemporary stars, one could easily mistake this film for a lost gem from that era. Speaking of its cast, it is impossible to discuss The Backwoods without mentioning Gary Oldman, who openly relishes his role and gives one of his strongest performances in years. A powerhouse of blood, sweat and tears.
“A psychological allegory of unexpected depth. It is as though all the moral ambiguity and mean-spiritedness of 1970s cinema had never died.” – Anton Bitel, EYE FOR FILM
“Primo directing, acting, cinematography, tension and violence. I was never bored, that’s for sure” – John Fallon, ARROW IN THE HEAD
“A terrific movie. This Spanish chiller really feels like a cult classic from the good old days.” – Anthrofred, SLASHERPOOL
Director: Koldo Serra
Screenplay: Jon Sagalá, Koldo Serra
Cast: Gary Oldman
Producers: Guillaume Benski, Julio Fernández, Aitor Lizarralde, Pablo Mehler, Iker Monfort, Jolyon Symonds
Distributor: Lions Gate