Backwater is a creepy horror which tells the story of a couple who can’t help but shake the feeling that they’re not alone on their camping trip out in the middle of nowhere. The truth, however, is far more disturbing than meets the eye. Writer-director Christopher Schrack’s Backwater boasts an award winning script, and great performances from the cast, including Justin Tully (Sorority Row) and Liana Werner-Gray (The Man in the Maze.)
The story follows Cass and Mark, an ordinary couple, who embark on a camping trip in the countryside. Things start to get weird when their secluded getaway is interrupted by a scream, and they encounter two strangers who are also in the woods near them. Despite the seemingly peaceful surroundings, the two of them can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. Justin Tully, and Liana Werner-Gray do a good job as the terrified couple, giving a believable chemistry that helps to keep the film moving. It focuses on the tension between them, rather than the actual scares, creating an enjoyably tense atmosphere. Liana really picks up the pace in the second half of the film, seemingly getting into her zone more than in the first half. The supporting cast are particularly good as well, helping to give an uneasy atmosphere from the get go. All in all, the acting is pretty spot on and they really do the script justice.
The film’s setting is both unnerving and beautiful at the same time. It gives that unsettling feeling of being out of civilisation, completely secluded and vulnerable. The film utilizes this premise well, and I think the sense that the couple is in total isolation is one of the scariest factors, especially in the early parts of the films. Later on, however, there are some serious gore fests, that even made me feel a little bit squeamish (at one point, I couldn’t actually watch what was going on because I felt that queasy.) The film’s set up is a little slow going; it helps to build up the necessary tension, but I found the first half an hour completely lacking in comparison to the second half of the film. It has a great twist that will seriously leave you scratching your head, wondering what is actually going on.
You never quite feel relaxed watching this film, and that was one of the things I enjoyed about it. One thing I particularly liked was the hand camera style used for some of the more tense sequences. The shaky camera meant that visibility was difficult, helping to add to the scene’s tension. Overall, the camera work was good, although a little bit standard for the horror genre. There were some clever focus shots, making you think something was going to happen, yet not always doing so. It’s typical tension building techniques, but it’s done to a good standard here. The sound effects are well done as well; defined in all the right places to help create that sense of unease. I liked the exaggerated use of heavy breathing in the chase scenes – the hyped sound really made it feel like you were watching from their perspectives. The soundtrack is a little understated, but I think that was the vibe they were going for and it does the job of creating atmosphere well.
In regards to lighting, the main body of Backwater is shot at night, making effective use of torches and moonlight, rather than set lighting pieces. I thought this was a really good idea, creating really tense scenes in which you often struggle to see what is happening around them. This works great with some of the walking and running sequences, as it gives you an almost first person view of what the character is experiencing and going through. I personally found this to be a really nice touch, and the lighting designs are actually one of my favourite parts of the film.
Overall, I thought the film was an enjoyable watch. As previously stated I felt the first part of the film was a little slow going, though it was effective in creating a threatening and unnerving atmosphere, which in turn, helped the film’s second half really shine. I did have fun watching it but for myself, I didn’t think it was anything new to add the the horror genre. That said, if you want a good, solid film, with some really well executed gore scenes, then definitely give Backwater a watch, as it does a better job creating that tension than many of the big ‘blockbuster’ style horror films. I am personally going to avoid camping out in the wilderness for a little while now, I think….
Backwater is released on the 10th November.