There's a long, long tale a-winding in Blackwoods, but at tale's end, screenwriter Robert Dean Klein and writer-director Uwe Boll offer up a surprisingly plausible explanation for the melodramatic excesses that preceded it. Making some kind of sense of such a migraine-inducing mishmash is practically the last thing you'd expect of this sloppy-pretending-to-be-arty horror antic. The motive behind the freewheeling mayhem will likely make a lot of points with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but it comes at the rest of us in such a confusing, incoherent rush of murky, quirky flashbacks that it clutters the tracks of the narrative.

Of course, without the last-reel secret on the table at the outset, the narrative takes to clutter the way a tire takes to the road. Patrick Muldoon plays a confirmed urbanite who sets out with his girlfriend (Keegan Connor Tracy) to meet her family who, she says cryptically, "lives deep in the woods." Very deep, it turns out. Even before they pile into the car, he notices her chatting with a stranger in sunshades (Anthony Harrison)--just giving directions, she says--but he, and we, know the guy will be turning up later. Which he does, just like clockwork, along with much stranger strangers like a poker-faced country sheriff (Michael Par, in a performance of pure plywood) and a porno-pushing sleazeball of a motel clerk (who else but Clint Howard?)--as well as such horror-movie inevitables as an axe-wielding motel intruder and a vengeance-driven family tribunal.

Director Boll does not weave a simple saga, muddying the path with constantly recurring, increasingly irritating flashbacks (or, possibly, flashforwards) that add nothing but annoyance to the proceedings. The slow-mo optical smears make you feel the director is just indulging in wannabe artistic flourishes. You never take them for the key to the mystery.

Performances don't rise above bland, and some plummet well below that. Crudely executed by all hands, Blackwoods is--true to its title--an overreaching blur.

--Harry Haun