Timber Falls

Timber Falls


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

The history of cinema is littered with falls, from the lofty triumph of Peter Greenaway's vertiginous mockumentary The Falls (1980), through David von Ancken's civil war revenger Seraphim Falls (2006), Geoffrey Wright's undervalued postmodern slasher Cherry Falls (2000), Lee Tamahori's noir thriller Mulholland Falls (1996), all the way down to the monstrous horror (in every sense) of Jonathan Liebesman's Darkness Falls (2003) – but with Timber Falls, this arbitrary titular subgenre is sent plummeting just about as low as it can go over the B-grade edge. How Tony Giglio's film ever managed briefly to deviate from the straight-to-DVD route that was its natural destiny is a mystery that viewers can contemplate for themselves as their minds inevitably wander from the cliché-riddled puff on screen.

Perhaps it is just the vogueish 'torture porn' zeitgest that the film tries to surf (while always sticking to the shallows). For Timber Falls opens in territories familiar to anyone who is a fan of the Hostel and Saw franchises, as a bound and gagged woman painfully extracts her hands from the nails that have fixed them to the bed, runs briefly to her chained up male partner in the next room, before a half-seen figure with a scythe chases her out into the woods and over a cascading precipice to her death. Still, those expecting this film to tap into America's ambivalence about the sins committed in its name in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and other counter-terror hellholes may be in for a surprise. Timber Falls shows no interest in America's external war on terror, preferring instead to look inwards at the tensions engendered by the nation's culture wars. The clue here lies in those nails through the victim's palms, suggestive of a biblical subtext that will soon come to the fore.

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Not long afterwards, young, unmarried urban couple Mike (Josh Randall) and Sheryl (Brianna Brown) go a-camping in a West Virginian National Park, unfazed by the missing persons signs or the sheriff's warnings about unpatrolled paths. Directed by god-fearing local woman Ida (Beth Broderick) to Timber Falls, the pair quickly runs into three aggressive hillbilly boys – but something far worse than the redneck horrors of Deliverance awaits Mike and Sheryl, in the form of a bible-thumping family with stunted fertility and a strange idea of how to go about doing God's work.

The tension between civilisation and the backwoods, so essential to the horror of the 1970s and 1980s, is here updated to incorporate the clash between devout and secular – yet if there is the germ of an interesting idea in Timber Falls, a hack job is made of turning it into a reality. Ida and her ilk may be meant to represent the darker side of blind faith – something well worth scrutinising in the Bush-era rise of the religious right - but the particular brand of fundamentalism that this family exhibits is so cartoonish in its self-evident evils that few would recognise it as anything like even a perverted form of Christianity. Viewers will be left wondering what exactly Giglio is criticising in his staged confrontation between a couple 'living in sin' and an abjectly wicked family.

Of course, little more is required to justify a horror movie's existence than some blood-curdling tension, a bit of icky gore, and the occasional decent jump-fright – but Giglio's direction is so pedestrian, so by-numbers, that even the spectacle of (even further) sexual menace and (yet more) sadistic torture becomes a dreary exercise in his hands. Not only will you have a pretty good idea from the start what is going to happen to all these 'characters', but, even worse, you will not care when it does. A film so soulless deserves to be confined to DVD hell.

Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2008
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A couple’s camping trip turns into a gruelling nightmare.
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Paul Griffiths *

Director: Tony Giglio

Writer: Daniel Kay, Tony Giglio

Starring: Josh Randall, Brianna Brown, Beth Broderick, Nick Searcy, Sascha Rosemann

Year: 2007

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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