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9.12.08

Driftwood (2006)





Director: Tim Sullivan
Starring: Taviv Ullman, Dallas Page, Talan Torriero
Released by Image Entertainment






So you set out to make a serious dramatic film and the most remarkable thing about it is the performance of a former professional wrestler. So what do you do? If you are writer/director Tim Sullivan, you can either begin work on a horror/action/comedy starring vehicle for DDP, or you can try to follow one of the golden rules of low budget filmmaking: less is more.

The film begins at the Driftwood Reformatory, "Where Boys Become Men", and David Forrester (Taviv Ullman) is the newest pole on the block. He's a good kid and really doesn't belong at the hard-assed attitude adjustment camp - his well-meaning parents are concerned that David has become death-obsessed after the passing of his older brother. It's for his own good, they reason, and for 50 grand a year, Driftwood must be the best place for their troubled, but much loved son. After meeting his teacher, his fellow inmates, and the charismatic owner of Driftwood, Captain Kennedy ("Diamond" Dallas Page), David attempts to settle in. His situation becomes even more complicated when a strange apparition appears to David, which seems to be attempting to communicate with him. He discovers that one of the young inmates died under mysterious circumstances, something that Captain Kennedy has being working hard to keep secret. David begins poking around, and finds out that Driftwood is not what it appears to be.

The problem here is that Driftwood feels like three different movies welded into one. There is the almost campy style used early on which almost leads you to believe that the film is a tongue-in-cheek boy prison flick, there is the serious story of wayward kids being exploited by a greedy system, and then there is the supernatural story of the ghostly apparition seeking revenge. Unfortunately, the three elements don't blend well, and the film flips and flops from one aspect to another, never really managing to gel. Which is too bad, Driftwood could have worked very well as a dramatic film, sans the supernatural and comic aspects. Shockingly, it is former WCW superstar Dallas Page who manages to hold the film together. Conjuring up some sort of hybrid of Foghorn Leghorn and, well, "Diamond" Dallas Page, he manages to generate enough charisma and screen presence to keep your attention. At times his persona is at odds with the more straightforward dramatic elements, but still, his performance as the retired football player/reform school tyrant is weirdly compelling.

Driftwood works more often than not, but still suffers from a mild identity crisis which keeps the film from achieving what it sets out to do. This is also a barely R-rated picture, so fans expecting another gore-fest ala Sullivan's 2001 Maniacs will likely be disappointed. Worth a watch, so long as you adjust your expectations.

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