Reviewed by: Dave Murray
Diamond Dallas Page
What's it about
A young man gets sent by his parents to a juvenile work camp, a scam to get free labour for real estate development, where he is mistreated and abused. He soon learns of another kid, just like him, whose death at the hands of the other kids and their psychotic guardian/warden, has been covered up. But now the kid's ghost is out for revenge, and the boys have much more than yard duty and dropping the soap to worry about.
Is it good movie?
I like Tim Sullivan. He seems like a great guy, he knows his horror and I enjoy the hell out of his movies. After the total insanity that was 2001 Maniacs, this one is a complete shift in both direction and tone. There's nothing light and funny here, and nor is there much of the gruesome and disgustingly, gleefully violent. The setting of this flick is a frightening idea: work camps passed off as rehab programs for troubled teens, where everything is paid for by the parents who think their children are getting the help they need. Instead, the kids are used as cheap labour to develop properties for resale. While the fact that these scams exist within North America is hardly surprising, that still doesn't lessen the inherent nastiness of the situation being shown here.
While most of the kids are pretty cookie-cutter in a stereotypical sort of way, the main character of David, played by Raviv Ullman, is well drawn out and convincing. And while at times a little hammy and grating on the nerves, wrestler Diamond Dallas Page's delivery as the rat bastard owner of the "youth camp" was just as smarmy and sleazy as the role should have been. The rest of the cast however are on a different plane from unbelievable. Of special note here is the lacky Yates, played by Talan Torriero, who comes across as whiny, pathetic and just a little touched in the head. God that kid was annoying. But the ghost of the dead kid Jonathan, played by Connor Ross, was nicely done, and the makeup job was absolutely wicked. Too bad he wasn't used more. Alongside the horror of the camp itself, this kid is responsible for most of the horror and all of the scares in the entire flick (well, aside from the maggots, that scene had me squirming). There wasn't an Eli Roth cameo in this one, which was a relief for me. What we do get is a short Cameo by Lin Shaye (Granny Boone from 2001 Maniacs and sister of New Line visionary Bob Shaye) as David's mother.
The story played out here is a murder mystery mixed with a nice revenge twist, as the ghost comes seeking retribution through the new kid, David. While not the most original tale out there, this one had enough coming of age anxiety and creepy atmosphere to satisfy any horror fan. Sullivan's style is very bleak and moody this time around, and it lends itself well to this story, just as the garish and colourful approach suited 2001 Maniacs so well. This film is light on gore and heavy on atmosphere and creepy story, which is just fine in my book. As one of the first films released under the company Dark Horse Indie, a new arm of the venerable comic publisher, it's clear that we can expect good things from them in the future. And as always, if Tim Sullivan keeps it up, we can expect some very fine shit from him indeed. Now if he brings the sequel to 2001 Maniacs, and then another moody piece like this, I'll be there with chains on!
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.78:1.
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround).
There are two excellent Audio Commentaries with Sullivan being joined on one by the producer and on the other by Diamond Dallas Page. Sullivan is great to listen to, very insightful and passionate about his movies, and for any fledgling filmmakers this would be the guy to listen to out there in the horror world. The dude has zero pretentiousness and is killer funny. There are also two short Featurettes, titled Through The Gauntlet and Doing Time on the set of Driftwood, which offer some insights into the origins of the story and a closer look at the creepy ass makeup they did for the dead kid. Nice stuff. There are eight Deleted and Extended Scenes, which are mostly forgettable, with the exception of the full Driftwood Infomercial. It takes on a whole new level of insidious horror once you know the real purpose of the camp. Rounding out the disc are the Trailer, a short Blooper that has Page waxing poetic on the type of guy who barbeques, a generic Audition Reel, and the usual Photo Gallery, which is cool cause we get to look at that dead kid's blasted face again! Finally, there is an Alternate Ending, which isn't much different from the ending they used.
Driftwood is an entertaining look at just another of the human atrocities that are going on today, and it does a nice job of setting up tone, atmosphere and some seriously creepy scares. What it also serves up is a convincing and satisfying tale of abuse, murder and revenge, along with at least one wicked effects job on the face of the dead kid. While I didn't always buy the characters, some of the performances were well done. It's nice to see former wrestlers get work outside of porno or politics. Page seems like he has some acting chops to bring to the party. Stack this one up as another solid effort by Tim Sullivan, who it would seem gets better with each movie he does. Good shite, if a little depressing. This shit actually happens, man, and it's sad.