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  Driftwood Jitters in Juvenile
Year: 2006
Director: Tim Sullivan
Stars: Ricky Ullman, Diamond Dallas Page, Talan Torriero, David Eigenberg, Lin Shaye, Marc McClure, Russell Sams, Baelyn Neff, Jeremy Lelliott, Cory Hardrict, Frankie Levangie, Shahine Ezell, David Skyler, Connor Ross, John Walcutt
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Having wooed the Fangoria crowd with his horror-comedy remake 2001 Maniacs (2005), co-writer/director Tim Sullivan tackles something more ambitious with Driftwood (the tenth movie in over one hundred years of cinema to bear that title). Troubled teen David Forrester (Ricky Ullman) is traumatised by the drugs-related of his older brother. His sullen behaviour and death-obsessed diary prompt his misguided parents (Lin Shaye and onetime “Jimmy Olsen”, Marc McClure) to send him to Driftwood, a prison-like “attitude adjustment” camp for troubled youth, run by hulking sadist Captain Kennedy (former pro-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page). But the camp is merely a front for an elaborate real estate scam the Captain is working, with the kids as slave labourers. An even more sinister secret comes to light, as David is haunted by the ghost of Jonathan (Connor Ross), a former inmate who disappeared under mysterious circumstances…

Produced by Dark Horse, the comic book publishers behind Sin City (2005) now making inroads into independent filmmaking, Driftwood is a laudable attempt at socially-conscious horror. So-called “attitude adjustment” camps are a very real phenomenon Stateside. Co-star David Skyler spent time in one and the film was shot in a real camp closed down following years of bullying and abuse. While the script name-checks the Columbine murders and shows how the social environments created by brutes like Captain Kennedy are likely to create maladjusted miscreants instead of “cure” them, it does so with little subtlety. There is food for thought, but its aspirations are undone by a fumbled pace and wayward storytelling, with the supernatural elements somewhat forced and poorly explained.

The film seems hung up on a sadomasochistic gay subtext, dwelling on its cast of pretty boys being bullied and brutalized, while inept councillor Quills (John Walcutt) makes vague allusions to their sexuality. Sullivan grinds through a fairly detailed plot, but fails to sustain interest as things grow progressively jumbled and chaotic. Supposedly key details like the lady realtor (seemingly the brains behind the scam) and the twisted co-dependence between Kennedy and his prick-teasing daughter Myra (Baelyn Neff) are frustratingly vague. Performances are quite good, with former Disney star Ullman and newcomer Neff rising above eye candy clichés to lend some emotional weight and surprises. Page is well cast, even if his grandstanding feels better suited to the wrestling ring.

Although Sullivan cites Val Lewton as his inspiration here, his tricks and visuals recall The Devil’s Backbone (2001), yet with none of the lyricism of Guillermo Del Toro’s film. The last twenty minutes are particularly jumbled and chaotic, leaving it far from clear whether one character is possessed by Jonathan or merely assisting him. Horror films with something interesting to say are too few and far between nowadays, so one wants to cut Driftwood some slack, but good intentions don’t always make for a good movie.

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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