These days it seems that if you want to watch a Western, you have to actually hunt them down due to big production companies very rarely taking chances on them. For fans of Westerns, we’re lucky to even get one big-budget title (film or television) a year. But thanks to the independent circuit, the genre is still fighting to stay alive. Writer-director Chris Canfield’s Blackwood comes from a somewhat surprising smaller studio, Saban Films.
This horror-Western hybrid centers on Dowanhowee (Tanajsia Slaughter), a native woman who evades Dutch Wilder (Bates Wilder) and his posse by running into the mysterious Black Wood Forest. When Dowanhowee is captured, the gang decides to keep her alive to help them complete their goal of finding gold. During the mission, the group fears that something may be hunting them. Once enemies, Dowanhowee and the Dutch Wilder gang realize that they have to work together in hopes of escaping the forest alive.
Blackwood is not at all your typical Western. Yes, it does have guns, a gang of cowboys, and Native Americans, but Canfield’s script has more of a horror/thriller aspect to it. It opens up with an action scene of two men being chased, but as the viewer, you have no idea who or what they are being chased by. This sets the tone right away, which I like to see. I love when movies or stories of any kind put you right into the action just as you sit down to watch or begin reading that first page. Of course, it does not always work, but for this type of picture, it absolutely does.
“…Dowanhowee and the Dutch Wilder gang realize that they have to work together in hopes of escaping the forest alive.”
Another thing this does well is that it is more fast-paced than most other films in the genre. Most Westerns like to have a slow burn, but not this one. Canfield includes constant action here that keeps the story from dragging. The nice thing is that the action is there not just to have action, it has a purpose and helps the narrative move along.
While on the topic of story, Blackwood also seems to be a story that is more based around Native American culture than the usual fare of this nature. The Black Wood Forest houses mysteries regarding a creature that hunts and kills whoever enters its territory. I like this idea to some degree, as I feel that more diverse stories need to be told in movies and television. But with the added aspect of a creature giving chase to the group, which is where the horror lives, I feel that it takes away from the Western feel of it all.
Lastly, what I appreciate about the flick besides Kara Rainer as Sally, who I wish was in the film more, is that it takes chances. It does not follow a stereotypical Western pattern, and that’s okay, it really doesn’t need to. Was it my cup of tea? Not quite, as the two genres don’t mesh well enough, but it has some things going for it. I would say that if you are a fan of Bone Tomahawk, then you might enjoy Blackwood.
"…more fast-paced than most other films in the genre."