“What have I told you about killing large groups of people?”
As someone who was partially raised and has deep roots in rural Appalachia, I have problems with movies like Wrong Turn and The Devils Ground. I get tired of the stereotype that all rural Appalachians are mouth-breathing, inbred hicks. I mean, its pretty sad when the only movie I can think of off the top of my head which depicts Appalachians in a positive light is the Patrick Swayze flick Next of Kin, of which the less said the better.
What makes it even more galling, though, is that sometimes the stereotypes are dead on. Like the college students in the movie, Ive met more than my fair share of hostility because Im a “college boy.” But to be fair, Ive never been chased through the woods by a drooling, machete-wielding maniacâ€”unless you count my uncle. Ba-zing!
The movie starts with Darryl Hannah driving through the backwoods of Pennsylvania on a cross-country trip from California to Bangor, Maine. On her way she stops at the obligatory creepy gas station manned by the obligatory menacing redneck. She high-tails it out of there and a few miles down the road almost runs over a frightened, blood-spattered Amy. Hannah picks up the girl and as she drives Amy tells her story.
A student of Environmental Studies, Amy and her friends were hired by one of their professors to investigate an area of land recently allocated by a mining company for development. If the students can find evidence that the area had once been a sacred Native American burial site then they can petition the company to leave the land alone. Unfortunately, during their excavation they find skeletons with fillings and wearing Rolex watches.
Almost immediately they are attacked by a hulking, drooling man who slightly resembles the wrestler Kane back when he still wore a mask, although his people skills are much worse. The Hog Man, as they call him, chases the students through the woods, alternately shooting them with a shotgun or stabbing them with a machete.
I have to say that going in I wasnt expecting much from this movie, which probably explains why I enjoyed it as much as I did. The villain was laughable and ultimately forgettable, but there were some nice performances by Leah Gibson as Amy and Daniel Probert as Billy. And Im very happy that, unlike many contemporary horror movies, this one gives us a protagonist to root for. Amy is a decent, likable person and you want her to survive. Also, there were some pretty clever plot twists which didnt exactly take me by surprise, but were fun to watch.
Murderous rednecks are nothing new, but this movie plays with the concept well enough to be entertaining. In some ways its almost a light mix of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, although not as good as either.
The movie was presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.78 aspect ratio with the audio in Dolby Surround 5.1. Although neither the audio or video were used in any innovative or groundbreaking ways, the filmmakers did a fine job and there were no discernable problems with either.
Scorpion Trailer (1:18)
Columbus Day Trailer (1:34)
The Devils Ground is by no means a great horror movie, but it is funâ€”perfect for a cheesy movie night with friends, but little else. Mildly recommended.
Lightning Media and Industryworks Entertainment presents The Devils Ground. Directed by Michael Bafaro. Starring Daryl Hannah, Leah Gibson, Jeb Beach, Maria Gruending, Lee Tomaschfski, Luke Camilleri, Twan Holliday, and Daniel Probert. Written by Michael Bafaro. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: May 19, 2009. Available at Amazon.