“Blackwoods” tries to salvage its dopey premise with frantic final-reel plot contortions, but in this thin thriller, depicting a very bad weekend for a guy who goes with his new g.f. to the woods to meet her reclusive family, the last-minute revelations amount merely to the piling of more nonsense on top of an already ridiculous surface. This concoction from the writing-directing team of Robert Dean Klein and Uwe Boll is among several recent releases that are quintessentially straight-to-cable yet are being shoved into a teeming theatrical marketplace. Pic will even have a hard time finding ancillary comers.
That Matt (Patrick Muldoon) is about to step into a heap of trouble is made obvious from every corner, whether by way of the hilariously shoddy dialogue (lover Dawn informs him, “My family lives deep in the woods”), a repetitive series of interrupting shock-cuts of a car accident in which Matt is involved, or Reinhard Besser’s clunky score. To load foreshadowing on foreshadowing, Matt not only tells roommate Jim (Will Sanderson) that Dawn has had trouble with her ex-b.f. and that her family can be a handful, he also spots Dawn talking to a tall, suspicious stranger in a dark suit before they tool off to the woods. (Vancouver and the nearby B.C. mountains substitute, poorly, for Denver and the Rockies.)
Those constant shots of Matt in an accident finally lead to the revelation that he was in a car crash five years ago, and while there’s no doubt those events somehow will link up with the present, pic treats us to a distended suspense sequence at a motel where Matt and Dawn stop for some obligatory sex before seeing the folks. While fending off an intruder with an axe, Matt also must contend with Clint Howard, playing one of his patented greasy creeps as the motel manager, and Michael Pare’s nosy small-town sheriff.
Somehow, Dawn disappears, and Matt finds the route to her family’s home while sending an SOS to Jim. After sneaking up on the house, Matt is attacked by Dawn and, imprisoned in the basement, put on “trial” by her kin for killing the family’s youngest daughter in that car crash.
“Blackwoods’ ” biggest problem is that all this activity turns on a situation that, once revealed, almost — but doesn’t quite — clarify everything that’s happened. Neither Klein’s script nor Boll’s direction is crafty enough to sustain the conceit, which feels more like trickery than anything meaningful.
Thesping is sloppy, particularly that of Tracy and Howard, while Muldoon’s handling of Matt teeters into comedy. Pic goes for a kinetic rhythm and shadowy atmosphere, but it all fizzles from repetition, including an optical stop-motion “blur” effect that eventually ceases to dazzle.