Reviewed by: Heather Seebach
Rating: 5 out of 10
Movie Details: View here
Josh Randall as Mike
Brianna Brown as Sheryl
Nick Searcy as Clyde
Beth Broderick as Ida
Sascha Rosemann as Deacon
Directed by Tony Giglio
Sometimes I wonder if horror screenwriters simply toss a handful of genre clichés into a hat and draw them out at random - young people camping in the backwoods; a grotesquely deformed killer; a family of religious crazies. We have seen these tired clichés in a dozen movies, and Tony Giglio's Timber Falls has them all. But to its credit, the film does offer a new twist on an old plot, some unexpected turns, and likable main characters. It gets points for trying to tread new ground, even if the few moments of originality are ultimately overshadowed by the same old same old.
A young city couple, Mike and Sheryl, set out for a weekend of camping and hiking in the mountains of West Virginia. A local ranger tells them to stick to the patrolled trails, but in true horror fashion, they do not heed his warning and instead hike to Timber Falls. Along the way, they have a run-in with three hillbillies who harass and frighten them. Despite this encounter, they continue on their trip and set up camp. Shortly thereafter, Sheryl is abducted by a hideously scarred man and Mike goes looking for her. What he finds is a family of religious zealots who wants the couple to bear them an offspring or be tortured if they refuse.
The leads, played by Josh Randall and Brianna Brown, are more likable than expected. It is nice to focus on one set of relatable victims and not a slew of generic ones. The couple is not excessively good-looking or obnoxious as in many horror films. While they make a few dumb choices, they are not complete idiots and do what most people would in their predicament. As for the rest of the cast, Beth Broderick is particularly creepy as one of the religious nuts. The only real terrible acting in the film comes from the three unconvincing hillbillies, who look like Abercrombie models with beards and cartoony Southern accents.
Surprisingly, the film is not particularly gory. It opens with a gory bang and closes with a few bloody deaths, but overall there is not much. The makeup on Deacon, the deformed monster, is convincing albeit rather dull after seeing similar makeup jobs in other movies. Presumably, director Tony Giglio was going for pervasive tension and not so much gory thrills. He does a good job with the film's look and the Romanian landscape makes for a convincing rural West Virginia. Unfortunately, the movie never really felt scary or tense. It is not entirely boring, though, and even has some dark humor throughout.
Too much of the script is material we have all seen before. It draws from films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wrong Turn, and The Hills Have Eyes. Naïve tourists, isolated backwoods, creepy hillbillies, a hideously deformed monster – all have been beaten to death on film. Fortunately, the script does surprise with a few anti-clichés. For one thing, writer Dan Kay resisted the urge to make the deformed monster an inbred West Virginia mutant – he is simply scarred. And instead of the captors being monstrous cannibals, they are an almost sympathetic couple who cannot conceive a child. These are small details, but they make a big difference.
The folks in charge of marketing Timber Falls have done the film a great disservice by ignoring the twisted family aspect of the plot. The DVD description and trailers lead you to believe it is just about a disfigured monster picking off hikers in the woods. In doing so, it alienates horror fans who would likely relish the crazy-family-wants-a-baby plot. It is one of the better aspects of this film, providing black humor and Misery-like suspense. By not advertising this part of the story, the movie just looks like every other crap slasher movie out there.
Timber Falls never quite reaches the level of a great horror film, but it does make the effort. A better title and a more honest marketing campaign could have done a lot to help its cause. Once you look passed the wilderness torture-porn aspect, there is some potential, but unfortunately not enough to outshine all the clichés.
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