Writer/director Tom Paton made his debut with PANDORICA, a post-apocalyptic film that showed how far you could go with a lot of talent and almost no money. It was one of my favorite films of the year and one of the best of its genre. Now he’s back with REDWOOD, an unusual take on terminal illness and vampires. Will lightning strike twice?
Josh (Mike Beckingham SUBCONSCIOUS) has been diagnosed with leukemia. In an effort to get some peace of mind, he and Beth (Tatjana Inez Nardone STALKING EVA) decide to go camping. A passing “Animal Control Officer” (Nicholas Brendon BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, COHERENCE) warns them against leaving the trail. And of believing tales of a mausoleum that has mysterious healing powers. Needless to say, they end up off the trail and at the mausoleum. Where they find the creatures that lurk in the night may not be the evilest things there.
REDWOOD starts out as a relationship drama before the horror kicks in. It’s good that Paton takes the time to develop the characters but he takes to long doing it. The film is nearly at the halfway point before the film really shifts into gear. This does make some of the later events a lot more understandable, but it could have been handled better.
But once it does it makes up for it, constantly cranking up the suspense until it reaches the climax.The creatures themselves are effectively creepy, bringing the creatures from THE DESCENT and THE HALLOW to mind. They fit perfectly with the dark woods and mausoleum settings. Traditional vampires would look ridiculous in the woods and cliched in the tomb, but these are human enough to recognizable, feral enough to look like they belong.
Paton should also be cut some slack given the film’s genesis. REDWOOD was written in two days after he was approached by producers who had secured the film’s locations but had no script to film. He was told to write something about vampires and do it quickly as they only had six weeks to write and shoot it. That kind of pressure would be brutal for an experienced filmmaker, let alone one on their second film. Paton certainly rose to the occasion.
While not on the level of his previous film, REDWOOD still manages to avoid the dreaded “sophomore slump”. It’s a solid film and worth seeing. His next film, BLACK SITE is described as “80’s inspired John Carpenteresque action”. I’m looking forward to it.