Friday, October 3, 2008

Don't Go Down To The Woods Today....

There are spoilers in the woods...''in every sense of the word...''

As is probably known to anyone who knows my cinematic tastes, they know full well that the snowbound and back woods slasher film are my personal favorite sub-genres. What I've come to realize is that most backwoods slashers are basically the same: You have the same basic structure - the formulaic teens in the woods trying to overcome a night of terror as some unknown (usually deformed when it comes to backwoods slashers) maniac slashes his way through friends a'many. There's basically two types of woods goers in the modern day slasher film. There's your true outdoors-men ala the characters from the 1983 second tier slasher The Final Terror - The whole crew basically makes a living from working in the woods. It's not necessarily clear what their job duties entail, but it's obvious that most of the crew are right at home in the woods. There's also your campers from 1981's Just Before Dawn that deal with an excited group of mountain hikers and rock climbers who enjoy nothing more than flaunting through nature on a natural high.There's definitely a buzz kill when a large grizzly man cuts through our happy woods goers like a hot knife through warm butter.

On the other hand, you have your naive, sometimes reluctant venture's into the woods who had obviously rather be somewhere else. The character Alfred from 1981's The Burning comes to mind. Here's a kid ( a strange kid at that) who can't swim, sucks at outdoors type functions and simply dislikes his woody surroundings. Gail from 1984's Mutual of Omaha production The Prey, also rings a bell. Although all of her friends are quite comfortable in the woods, she must be afraid there's going to be a horny chipmunk who's going to see her in her 'caked-on-rouge glory' in the dead of night... Your basic city dweller who's very un-at-home in the woods, especially at night. There's usually at least one prissy type along for the camping trip.

Another formula involved in the early 80's backwoods slasher is the motive. When I say motive I've learned that the motive can be a number of things, so I use the term loosely. The deformed killer simply may not have any morals that could or would detour him from committing murderous and depraved acts. Maybe he/she grew up in the woods all alone and was forced to live off the land without parental supervision. This can be classified under 'desperation murder'. Most backwoods slasher films deal with 'desperation murder', which on it's own, is almost another whole sub-genre. A series of 'desperation murders' can be seen in 1982's, Humongous - A groub of Scooby Doo-esque youths get trapped on an island with a deformed hulk who's incidentally starving. The killer is in desperate need of food and the youths are easy access. One thing I've learned involving the backwoods slasher flick is that the killers are non-discriminatory when it comes to meat.

Maybe the killer(s) fear their way of life may become influenced by outsiders as is made evident by Pa in 1987's Canadian backwoods crazy-family-in-the-woods flick American Gothic. A strange religious family lives on an island without modern amenities. No running water. No electricity. They feel as if modern day technology would only contaminate their family which consists of Ma and Pa and their forty year old 'children' - and anyone threatening their way of life - or who simply do not agree with their lifestyle - are fair game in the murder realm. This could also be classified under 'desperation murder' as in the killer(s) feel they have to eliminate a threat. This can also be seen in 1981's The Final Terror. A deranged mental facility escapee is living in the woods and has adapted quite well to her woodsy surroundings. Her son sees after her and keeps hid the fact that his mother is a deranged psycho who'll kill anyone who threatens her exposure. The pair do everything they can to detour people away from Mill Creek where the son's mother makes her home. The murders committed by the deranged mother is also a 'desperation murder' scenario.

The motive can be way out there, I'm telling ya! In 1984's obscurity entitled Satan's Blade we start off with a bank robbery gone awry when greed steps in the way. Not only this, but the end motive is quite simple, yet effective considering how low budget the film was. Anyone who finds a possessed knife becomes possessed themselves by the supposed fictitious mountain man who roams the hills in search of a victim. This snowbound backwoods slasher was shot in 1980 in Big Bear, California during Winter. The snowy landscape adds a load of atmosphere that coincides with the score to rank it from pure and utter trash, to watchable trash. There's the possession motive that's not used very much in the backwoods slasher department (although used a little in other sub-genre slasher) unless you consider the very obscure Ghost Dance from 1983- a very obscure title that deals with Indian possession - or - Killer Party and the aforementioned Satan's Blade. You could maybe throw The Forest from 1982 in the trash heap as well.

Of course, we all know Mama Vorhees' motive in the original Friday the 13th. She's a psycho-depressed schizo who takes her vengeance against teenagers who she subconsciously blames for her son (Jason's) death. One group of teenagers were making love while that young boy drowned and now, every teenager making their way to Camp Crystal Lake either don't make it there, or the ones who are already there never leave alive. As mentioned earlier in the post, a majority of backwoods slasher flicks consists of a crazy family in the woods - sometimes cannibals - sometimes just immorally sadistic.

Conclusion: Most backwoods slashers consists basically of the same things. You've got your killer(s) in the woods. You've got your trespassers in the same woods. You have a few defined reasons for the killers doing what they do, although, they really don't need a reason. All backwoods slasher films revolve around the same plot. With all the murder in the woods, I guess staring at trees and shrubbery eventually drives one insane. Evidently, the symptoms include unconventional murder weapons, or some deranged reason behind the murdering of innocent hikers or forestry rangers. Whatever the motive, the backwoods slasher turned summer camps and the good old forest into death traps, distorting everyday ventures into a day of blood and death. In retrospect, after 1980's Friday the 13th (not the first, but did kick start the backwoods slasher craze) the mountains were never the same again. One would actually walk straight ahead without looking over their shoulder every five hundred feet or so.

The good old Backwoods slasher film sure helped shape horror altogether - being the cornerstone for many sub-par slasher films to come. I should actually refer to 'films' to the word 'movies', as a few shot-on-video backwoods slashers infiltrated the video market - a few even making a memory into the charred minds of horror fans. Cannibal Camp Out comes to mind - Young people in the woods+cannibal+camp out - I'm assuming a group of kids go into the woods to camp out and get cannibalized. Good premise, I guess. In closing, don't go down to the woods today or you're sure of....

In the near future, I'll post my theory on how the little film Deliverance is the forefather of the backwoods slasher movie. I'll refer to what could very well be one of the absolute first 'formulaic' backwoods slasher flicks. The title is Blood Stalkers from 1978. I'll also be discussing the snowbound slasher flick and how it relates the world of horror cinema. Stay tuned and keep the dorm clean!

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