Thursday, January 05, 2017

Yowie! It's THROWBACK (2014) Thursday!

This 2014 Australian horror-comedy was a frustrating affair. While at times it's a suspenseful monster movie, at other times it is so inept and dumbed down that it made me want to pull out what precious remaining hairs I have on my head! THROWBACK tries way too hard to be a fast-moving comedic horror film, but all it really does is annoy the viewer with its repetition, lack of scope, and (at times) its jarring edits. Those edits are made to try and create (unsuccessfully) a witty, non-linear story structure. When the film ultimately succeeds is during the last forty-five minutes or so, after it becomes a concentrated hunt and stalk picture. Until, that is, a weak, uninspired ending eliminates any hope at redemption.

Weekend warriors Jack (Shane Brack) and Kent (Anthony Ring) set out to find the treasure of Thunderclap Newman, a notorious bandit in the 1800's who had suddenly "fallen off the Earth" as one character puts it. The two men search the area and stumble upon the treasure, instantly driving Kent into gold fever as he attempts to kill Jack by drowning him in a creek. Jack, who appears to be an expert at holding his breath, escapes when Kent is distracted by some large and hairy thing stalking him. Jack runs through the dense woods until he finds a female park ranger named Rhiannon (Melanie Serafin) and drops the treasures into the water for safe keeping. And thus starts a repetitious cycle with Kent stalking, capturing and attempting to make Jack reveal where he hid the money, and Jack and Rhiannon's numerous narrow escapes from both Kent and the Yowie (an Australian Bigfoot-type creature).

The review copy I received had an issue around the forty-minute mark where the film played the last four minutes over again and abruptly entered a different scene already in progress. The great Vernon Wells (THE ROAD WARRIOR, COMMANDO) is in the movie for less than ten minutes, playing a detective named McNab, who is investigating the area because nine people had vanished. And he figures a serial killer was at work... in this vast, vast wilderness? McNab finds Kent wandering through the woods with a bloody pocket knife (he used it to fend off the Yowie) and, thinking him the killer, handcuffs the the deranged Kent to a fallen tree.

Being a fan and longtime viewer of Spaghetti Westerns, I see some similarities in the uses of gold as a motivator and the effects of gold fever, as well as the crosses and double crosses that abounded throughout the movie. The actors are all competent, but they are never given enough to work with. Characters repeatedly running into each other in the vast wilderness is incomprehensible and the continual stumbling onto things at convenient times also grows a bit tiresome. The characters of Jack and Melanie work well together, but there is no connection; they aren't put through enough together onscreen, nor do they bond well enough to make us care about them together or individually, and neither is in the least bit sexual in nature. The horror is rather lame and the bloodshed is minimal, leaving the action to revolve around the actors, who do the best they can with the inept script and story line. Most of the cast and director Travis Bain – aside from Vernon Wells – only have a few credits to their names.

THROWBACK misses its mark, but not by much. Had the script been a bit stronger and the plausibility less disconcerting, then the film could have been a decent little monster movie. The Yowie would have been an interesting mythological character to explore, but as depicted, the creature has very little menace to it and was never ferocious enough to make the horror impactful.

THROWBACK reminded me of some of those inept "killer in the woods" movies, like THE FOREST (1982), DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (1981) and NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980) thanks to its setting and the stalking killer aspect (be it human or, in NIGHT's case, bestial). This film is another of those homage films; it even has Jack and Kent toast from a bottle of spirits called "Boggy Creek Vineyards".

In closing, THROWBACK never decides what it wants to be and for that indecision the film suffers considerably; it has too many "easy outs" of situations to create a successful motion picture. The film was beautifully shot and the actors really try their hardest to make this endeavor congeal, but it's not enough to overcome the aforementioned defects. For me, THROWBACK could never find that balance between horror and comedy that some films find, which makes for an unbalanced, directionless, lost in the woods affair! – Mike Hauss

Michael Hauss lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his daughter and their cat Rotten Ralph. He has had reviews and articles published in Monster, Weng’s Chop, We Belong Dead, Divine Exploitation and Multitude Movies and is a regular contributor to the blogs Theater of Guts and Spaghetti Western Database. His work can also be found in the books 70s Monster Memories and Unsung Horrors.

THROWBACK is available from Amazon.

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