Deadwood Hills Abuses the Flashback

This film has one of the strangest structures I've ever seen. The film opens in 1979, as mysterious figures are burying a chest in a basement, but not before laying a cross on top of it. So obviously there's a vampire inside. That goes without saying.

Then the film jumps forward to the present day, where a man is returning to a small town to find out who killed his identical twin brother when they were children. I'm not going to detail his quest here, because it's so plodding and dull that I doubt I could stay awake while writing it. I could barely stay awake watching it. Suffice to say that the film is maybe 50% longer than it needs to be.

Here are the broad strokes. Guy wants to find out who the notorious child murderer is. People think it was a famous recluse, but a popular reverend died at the same as the killing stopped, so there's at least one other suspect. The sheriff tries to warn guy off, but he clearly knows more than he's letting on. Luckily, the sheriff's daughter is happy to help, and has never been told the terrible secret of the coffin her father buried at the beginning. Their dull investigation eventually leads them to a creepy church, and the chest buried in the basement.

Just as they've knocked the padlock off the chest, the sheriff shows up and explains the story of the vampire priest child-murderer. He does this before, you know, securing the vampire’s prison in any meaningful way, shape or form.

Just telling the story of the vampire priest’s story goes on for literally minutes, and, for reasons I can't begin to discern, is not accompanied by a flashback. The story (finally) over, they all wander back into the room where the chest is, just in time to see the vampire priest pop out and attack.

And now the flashback comes.

That's right, in the middle of a vampire attack, the film pauses for five full minutes to explain just how the priest got turned into a vampire while serving as a medic in World War 2. While not especially well-shot, this section of the film benefits from the crew's access to an extensive array of WWII weaponry and uniforms. A tank even shows up for a few shots. It's all impressively staged for such a low-budget production, but the fact that it stops the film's momentum dead right at the climax in unforgivable.

The flashback over, there's a quick fight scene where the vampire is dispatched through a heretofore unknown method of vampire slaying: cutting off the area of the body that was bitten in the first place. Once that's taken care of, it's time for another flashback! This one again to the priest’s backstory, as he talks about his decision to go off to war. Why on earth someone thought this was a necessary flashback is beyond me, since we've only just been introduced to the priest as a character minutes earlier, meaning that we have absolutely no attachment to him as a person, and couldn’t have cared less about his motivation for going to war.

Given the paucity of budget that the rest of the film displays, and the comparative lavishness of the World War 2 flashback, I can only assume that it was included because the filmmakers had free and easy access to the props and extras. This raises the question, though – if you've got access to a huge amount of World War 2 props, why not make a film based around that fact, perhaps some sort of period horror thing? Sure, it would have required a little more effort, but it certainly would have made more sense than awkwardly shoehorning WWII footage into a completely unrelated film in the hopes of reaching feature-length running time.

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