I think the best way to start this review is with a one word summary that the friend who came to the screening with me used – “Daft.”
Timber Falls is a very strange beast. The poster and press release would have you believe that it’s shocking and terrifying, when in actual fact there isn’t a single emotion raised throughout the entire film that seemed to be intended. The only thing the movie does succeed in doing is making you laugh and laugh I did – a lot.If the film had been played as a comedy it would have been great, as moments in it are hysterical. Sadly by the time things become entertaining you will have already sat through half a film in which most of the laughs came from the endless number of horror clichés served up one after the other.
In fact so endless are they, that Timber Falls‘ sole redemption might lie amongst its DVD release and the ability to take a shot every time a horror cliché is thrown at the screen. I dare you to try and retain the ability to walk at the end of it. If you need an example look no further than a girl going skinny dipping in a secluded lake: she ducks under the water and ‘SHOCK!’, a sinister figure appears out of nowhere, her head re-emerges, she looks back to the shore and ‘SHOCK!’ he’s gone. Oh dear.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around a young couple going hiking in the mountains to get away from city life. They then discover that every redneck and small town American character cliché is, in fact, true, when they are kidnapped and tortured in order to conceive a baby for a crazy, fundamentalist Christian couple. Before this they have a run in with three young redneck guys who fulfil every duty you expect them to, and even refer to them as “city folk”.
At points I really hoped the genre might be subverted in some way, that just one of the characters would act against type, would turn out not to be the crazy, evil idiot I expected, but they didn’t. Hopes were raised when one of the rednecks seemed quite enigmatic and good looking, a perfect opportunity I thought for some redneck vs. mutant-redneck action, for an unexpected hero to emerge. But no.
The strangest waste though came in the form of the main threat in the film, the large, deformed (naturally), inbred mutant with an impressive looking two-blades-in-one, sickle type weapon. The character lost all credibility after being shown in my favourite scene, a surreal and incredibly funny wedding ceremony, where the couple are forced into wedlock (so they may conceive a child in the sanctity of marriage and not as sinners). His presence is just plain funny and consequently makes him remarkably unthreatening in all future scenes, regardless of whether they involve torture or not and the constant slurping noise he makes, due to a facial deformity. They just became increasingly entertaining with each repetition.
Which brings me to his main weapon, described above, and the focal point of the poster and opening scene of the film. He doesn’t actually use it for anything other than chopping branches off trees as he pursues victims, which is yet another wasted opportunity. Even during a scene where he is about to torture the male lead, we see his hand hover over an array of varying weapons in a moment similar to Bruce Willis’ weapon selection in Pulp Fiction. Only thing is, having watched him pick up a nasty looking device that can best be described as long, wooden spatcheler with metal spikes on the end, he then puts it down and picks up… a whip. Now there’s something I’ve never seen before.
I should also clarify that having used the word ‘torture’ at no point in the film is anything remotely upsetting or exploitative. I believe the best word to describe it would be ‘lame’ but they’re hardly likely to put that on the poster now are they?
Timber Falls’ biggest crime for me though was not just the lack of unoriginality, but that the films it seemed to be emulating were themselves either recent, or the new remakes of older movies. In my notes I scribbled Texas Chainsaw as a reminder of certain scenes or characters, but I meant the recent remake, not the original. Similarly, the night before I saw Timber Falls I watched the remake of Black Christmas and was a little taken aback when I realised that the posters were nearly identical.
I thought perhaps this could be that this was because the director was young, which made me face up to the terrifying possibility that a new wave of horror directors would all find themselves without a single drop of originality in their work, but it turns out he’s four years older than me, so consequently has no excuse. His age also makes the over the top bashing of religion all the less acceptable, as it’s handled with all the subtlety of the paintings I did as a teenager, which is none at all – brain matter gets blasted over a cross, a crucifix gets jammed into a neck and in one moment there is a shot of a crucified Jesus, surrounded by flashing Christmas tree lights.
Part of my brain refused to believe that the movie was supposed to be completely serious, and having just read an interview with the director, it would appear that he is aware that the plot is ludicrous. The interview reveals that there is a streak of dark humour, and he cites early Sam Raimi as an influence, and the intention is that the comedy is supposed to work alongside the scares and even heighten them. But for me, the comedy simply destroyed any chance of being scared. If he’d have played it as a straight comedy, not wasted half a movie with a laugh-free set up, it could have been great. Even the music played more as a comedy score, so any chance of using that to heighten tension was lost too.
As it stands Timber Falls is an entertaining mess, I can’t say I hated it as it kept me laughing, but the tone was so inconsistent that I came out utterly confused by my feeling towards it. The performances were solid throughout, but the characters hackneyed and the dialogue lacking. What gore there was proved okay for the most part: there were two deaths towards the end that made me laugh with joy, as they instantly reminded me of the Friday 13th style of effect. But it just seemed too little, too late.
Oh and the ending was awful. But I still laughed.