Director Tim Sullivan leaves behind the blood-drenched fun and frolics of 2001 Maniacs (2005) for something far more low key with his second feature, Driftwood.

Sixteen-year-old David (Ricky Ullman), having been deeply affected by the death of his older brother, develops an obsession with death, which sets alarm bells ringing for his parents, who decide that the best course of action is to send their troubled son to the harsh-but-fair correctional facility of Driftwood. Run by the sadistic warden, Captain Kennedy (superstar wrestler, ‘Diamond’ Dallas Page), the facility attempts to turn David into a productive member of society, with the use of physical abuse, slave labour and morally suspect class lectures. While David attempts to resist the lure of conformity, he begins to witness strange ghostly occurrences around the camp, which gradually lead him to the disturbing truth behind Driftwood’s dark past.

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Similar in its approach to Guillermo del Toro’s triumphant The Devil’s Backbone, Driftwood sidelines its horror elements and places emphasis on the emotional drama, though unlike del Toro's gem, Tim Sullivan’s merging of genres doesn’t quite pay off.

The real horror of Driftwood is the subject of the ‘attitude adjustment’ camps and their proliferation after the Columbine shootings, which saw panicked parents packing their teenage sons off to camp for fear of them turning into Marilyn Manson obsessives and subsequent serial killers. The fact these adjustment camps actually exist certainly sends a shiver down the spine, and Sullivan’s exposé of such an unsavoury fact-based regime provides a solid foundation for this off-kilter ghost story.

The ghost/horror elements themselves are executed rather clumsily and haphazardly, with the flashes of ghostly faces becoming annoyingly intrusive rather than complimentary to the narrative. Indeed, you can’t help but wonder if Driftwood might have been better off as a straight drama rather than an ineffective merging of genres.

Reviewed on: 16 Apr 2009
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Emotionally troubled teen, David Forrester, is sent to an attitude adjustment camp, where he discovers some dark secrets concerning murder and corruption.
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Director: Tim Sullivan

Writer: Chris Kobin, Tim Sullivan

Starring: Ricky Ullman, Dallas Page, David Eigenberg, Lin Shaye, Marc McClure, Baelyn Neff

Year: 2006

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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