Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: David Ryan Keith
Writer: David Ryan Keith
Producer: Lorraine Keith
Stars: Lisa Cameron, Mark Wood, Lisa Livingstone, Rebecca Wilkie, Lee Hutcheon, Adam Coutts
Five friends discover the evil truth behind a local legend when they visit a haunted home on the anniversary of a grisly murder.
Commemorating the anniversary of an infamous mass murder by partying on the site of the original tragedy never turns out well for anyone in a horror movie. Encountering such expectedly bad things is exactly the fate befalling five friends and various wayward campers in “The Redwood Massacre.” On their way to a remote forest farmhouse reportedly haunted by a crazed cannibal who killed his family 20 years earlier, the quintet quickly learns that local legends about an evil axman in a stitched scarecrow mask are more than mere myth after all.
Fearful folklore come to life as a killer stalking straying friends one at a time is about as by-the-book as horror gets. “The Redwood Massacre” doesn’t stop at its premise when it comes to running its mill, though. Consider this checklist of tropes also employed throughout the film:
- Spooky, isolated house in the woods.
- Scarecrow sack mask for the killer with its orifices sewn shut to purposefully, albeit implausibly, look as sinister as possible (only a supernatural stalker could be comfortable wearing burlap on his face).
- A Final Girl who can be sniffed out during the first second she walks onscreen.
- Impertinent character relationships, e.g. one is an ex-girlfriend, one is a current girlfriend, one has a quiet crush on another, and none of it matters once subplot development evaporates following act one.
- Obligatory moment of discovering an unsurprising lack of cellphone service in a countryside forest.
- Slow cat-and-mouse pursuit scenes to pad out the midsection.
- A creepy campfire tale to fill in the backstory.
- Foreshadowing dialogue such as, “this is gonna be a weekend you’re never gonna forget!” and “you’ve only got one (shotgun) round left … make it count!”
- Two different solitary characters hesitantly shouting “hello?” upon hearing noises in the distant dark.
- Lofty soliloquies from a killer-hunting father out to avenge a daughter slain at the masked maniac’s hands.
- A garage band metal song accompanying end credits.
From the list above, it is simple enough to imagine how handily the bad beats out the good. At the same time, turning a thumb all the way downward seems unfair, since it is just as easy to imagine a community college film instructor awarding at least a passing grade for having basic moviemaking techniques and structure down pat, even if the resulting film is a marginal addition to the slasher subgenre.
Mostly competent production values or not, “The Redwood Massacre” still needs a dose of restraint in more than one instance, starting with its ridiculously goopy blood fountains and obviously overlit nighttime shots. The actor playing the killer in pre-mask flashbacks also operates at a visual volume of Spinal Tap 11. Eyes bug out of his head as if he is in a live-action Tex Avery cartoon and he overeagerly licks blood off his fingers like a chocolate-obsessed toddler attacking a Fudgsicle. It’s an indulgent performance so far over-the-top that he can’t even be seen making the jump.
The audio department becomes just as carried away. Virtually every single onscreen action has an accompanying plop, gurgle, thud, or thwap, and in almost every case the sound effects scream their generic audio library origins. Background music is equally ceaseless. Fewer mouse clicks in the post-production suite and lengthier bouts of quiet would go a long way here.
Even with all of the above marks in the negative column, “The Redwood Massacre” is so serviceably mediocre that most of its 80-minute runtime is spent on cruise control towards a neither here nor there score of 2.5 out of five stars. Drinking from either the half-full or half-empty end of the movie’s glass depends on one’s tolerance for straightforward, low-budget horror fare. Suitable enough for a night of traditional slasher entertainment, “The Redwood Massacre” is one of those disposable movies where some short time after the fact, you’ll be unable to recall if you actually saw it or not.
Review Score: 50