DreadWorld Review 'American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire' (2013/15)

American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is another one of those films so nice they named it twice, but unlike, say, Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchett (review HERE), the duality of titles for AB: SH (You didn't think I'd be typing the entire title of the film every time did you?) is very fitting. The film often feels like two completely different films spliced together. One of the films is a slapstick, horror/comedy. The other is well, about as far from a horror comedy as one can get. Normally, such distinctive moieties in a films tone are a sure recipe for disaster, but writer/director Flood Reed does the best he can to synthesize these two divergent tones into one cohesive narrative. And he almost pulls it off...almost.

Four friends head off into the New Hampshire wilderness in search of the greatest strip club in the history of the world. What they find instead is much more sinister. Shortly after leaving they find themselves being used as human pawns in a game that seems like the love child of Deliverance and Richard Connells short story "The Most Dangerous Game." However much to the game masters surprise their "fun" is soon interrupted by something that threatens not only their precious game but also their lives.

The first 30 minutes or so of  American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is a paint by numbers, tongue in cheek, indie horror comedy - something Reed completely understands. He names the characters Bro, Buddy, Kid, and Dude-Guy, seemingly as some sort of meta-commentary on these types of films. or maybe he just couldn't think of good names, For artistic purposes I will assume the former. The film wears a heavy Trauma influence before doing a 180 and turning into something much more akin with Wes Cravens early films The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. Here's where things start to go off the rails a bit.

With the introduction of the third element (no spoilers) in to the film halfway through the second act the narrative starts to get a little muddy. It's almost as if Reed had an idea for a film about rednecks hunting folks in the New Hampshire backwoods and felt like he needed to inject another element to limit the parallels between his film and the afore mentioned Deliverance and The Most Dangerous Game. While it does make the film more distinctive, it also throws the narrative off in the third act. As a viewer we go from a standard "how are these stereotypes going to escape these madmen" to seeing those initial characters almost shuttled to to the background so that third element can get it's screen time. It also makes the film feel much longer than it's already too long hour and forty-five minute running time.

That being said there are a lot of good things going on in AB:SH. If you are a gore hound - you absolutely have to check out the film. There is a scene, granted it's late in the running time, that will knock your dick in the dirt. it's not just that scene either, the gore and effects are very well done for an independent feature. It's not just the gore that make the film stand out, Reed gets good performances out of his actors. You may recognize Dayo Okeniyi as "Thresh" from the first Hunger Games film and wonder if he is now the go to guy for "people getting hunted films." There is some fun, campy humor early, that Reed uses to put the viewer at ease before turning the film on a dime and taking it to a much, much darker place.

American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is a film comprised of two very interesting ideas where the whole unfortunately does not equal the sum of it's parts. That doesn't mean it's a bad film, it's one that just doesn't come together like it should. There are some laugh out load funny moments, some very uncomfortable moments, some awesome kills, and some really interesting ideas. For an independent horror feature you can do a lot worse than American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire. It just feels like there should be two films here, one titled "American Backwoods," a serious film that deals with the element introduced in the second act and a horror/comedy called "Slew Hampshire" where these guys get hunted while searching for a strip club. Oh well, a reviewer can dream.

** and 3/4 stars out of *****

That's it for me...as always thans for reading and "Enjoy Every Sandwich."

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