Back Road (2019) X Rated Movie Review

Back Road is the directorial debut of Andrew Pizzo, which is being shown in a fully X-rated, uncut version. When I was initially asked if I had any interest in checking this out, I was caught off guard. People still make X-rated films? After the initial shock, I said, “What the hell!” and agreed to watch. Did it live up to the hype? Keep reading to find out.

First, let’s just look at what Back Road is about. The film follows Madeline (Rachel Keefe: Grimoire TV series) and her friends as they embark on a summer vacation to an isolated cabin before they have to grow up and become adults. One thing leads to another, and the friends are in a fight for their lives in what can only be described as a backwoods nightmare.

Pizzo has described Back Road as a violent and brutal film that is hard to watch at times. It is designed to make the viewer squirm. This isn’t just another camping trip gone wrong… this film is something much more than that.

Right off the bat, I noticed the special effects done by Thomas Smith (Hunting For Justice 2017 – read our review here) of Sick & Twisted Cinema. Seriously, this movie is delightfully gory. The effects are incredibly well done, and they never looked cheap. This is something a lot of smaller budget horror films can’t seem to get right. When pulling off some of the more gruesome effects, other films would unintentionally make it obvious that they’re using a mannequin or some other technique that is supposed to simulate a human. Not in Back Road.

Smith does a phenomenal job of making everything seem incredibly realistic. So realistic, in fact, that there was an actual police search because of this film! Yes, you read that correctly. When speaking with Pizzo and Smith, they informed me of something that happened during filming. After shooting an overly bloody scene, the crew had been given permission to let the rain clean up any leftover blood from the scene. Unfortunately, a group of unsuspecting travelers encountered the crime scene and reported a murder. This led to a $25,000 investigation into the area!

Going beyond the effects, the cinematography in the film is great. There’s a phenomenal scene toward the end that pays homage to Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1973), and is, honestly, my favorite part of the whole film. Drew Pizzo shows that he knows his stuff when it comes to filming.

Moving on to the acting… honestly, it was hit or miss. Rachel Keefe’s Madeline was very well done. Others, like Fox, whoi was played by Erik Searle (Wicked Conclusions 2016), did rub me the wrong way. While Madeline felt like someone that I could run into on the street, Fox felt a bit overdone. He probably could have fit into an ’80s slasher film with all of its cheesy characters and dialogue, but in 2019, he just didn’t land that well with me. The antagonists of the film, the Ray family, were all terrifying in the way that the hillbillies from Deliverance were. They’re obviously unhinged and unpredictable. While they are your typical backwoods villains, they’re unpredictable enough to not feel like every other hillbilly villain.

I want to touch on the violence in the film before this review is over. Back Road is difficult to watch and will definitely make you uncomfortable. This is obviously a movie made by people who remember when horror films were intense and discomfited, a la Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

I’m still juggling my feelings on the violence. On one hand, it did what it set out to do. Back Road is supposed to make me cringe and squirm. On the other hand, the violence never felt like it was driving the plot along like something in Inside or Martyrs. It is almost a character in those films; the violence is a plot device that pushes the story forward. In Back Road, it felt like those disturbing scenes served no purpose besides basic torture porn, and I kept having to ask “What the hell am I watching?” This will be something I struggle with for awhile, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. If you want a violent and brutal flick without some of the soul crushing weight that other ultraviolent films have, Back Road is the one for you.

Overall, I enjoyed checking out Back Road, and I’m looking forward to hearing what others have to say about this brutal film. There are some phenomenal special effects that really stand out from other smaller budget films. Andrew Pizzo also gets to show off his chops as a cinematographer and producer, making a really good looking project. The acting is hit or miss, with Rachel Keefe and the Ray family being shining stars. If you’re not squeamish and you get the chance to check out Back Road, you definitely should. In the meantime, check out the trailer below, and let us know what you think!

About Matt Stumpf

My name's Matt, and I love all things horror. Books, movies, video games; you name it, I like it. Martyrs is my favorite horror film, and everyone should watch it. I also have a soft-spot for those cheesy 80's slashers. I'm still slightly convinced that Faces of Death is real.

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