“Backwoods Crime” – TV Series Review
“Backwoods Crime” is a subtitled series from Austrian TV that is actually ten separately-titled 90-minute movies that originally aired from 2013-16, bundled into an anthology format. The cast, tenor and setting are unique to each. None of the stories overlap or connect with each other.
Nine of the ten were made available for screening. They do share some similarities. All are set in small Austrian villages – mostly in the Alps. Production values are consistently excellent for the medium, providing plenty of lovely vistas and street scenes in charming towns. All involve one or more murders to be solved by protagonist cops or ex-cops, or a mix of each. Almost all are low enough on the violence and gore scales to be comparable to U.S. prime-time fare, and somewhat more adult than mysteries on the likes of Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel. Moments of sexual activity are shown in several, but without nudity except for a briefly-bared breast in one of the offerings.
Their tones are generally on the lighter side of crime dramas, with varying degrees of humor, and few intense scenes. For most, the pace was reasonable for its plot, though a couple may seem a bit stretched to fill their time slots. However, when any temporal padding is done with picturesque Alpine vistas and lovely rural environs for transitions or mood, one’s patience is minimally strained.
Since the tales are unrelated, the collection can be watched at your own pace, in no particular order. My least favorite was “Southern Cross” (“Kreuz Des Sudens”) in which a city cop, shelved due to a head injury, goes home to settle family affairs. When a fatality occurs during a circus performance, he winds up helping the locals sort it out. “The Woman With One Shoe” (“Die Frau Mit Einen Schuh”) seemed the slowest, despite its intriguing accumulation of body parts in odd places.
My higher ratings went to “All Flesh Is Grass” (“Alles Fleisch Ist Gras”), which opens with a skinny Santa apparently killing someone on a snowy Christmas Eve, leading to several more dispatches of folks having dubious merit. The weirdest and funniest fave is “Midsummer Night’s Murder” (“Sommernachtsmord”), opening like a thriller featuring a DELIVERANCE-esque mountaintop family posing threats to visitors before morphing into a dark comedy, bordering on farce. “Final Settlement” (“Endabrechnung”), with a lead actor (Robert Palfreder) resembling Gerard Depardieu, contains the most action and gore, though the worst of the killings occur largely off-camera. “Styrian Blend” (“Steierblut”) and “Death On Ice” (“Der Tote Am Teich”) do nicely at making familiar small-town political corruption plot lines seem fresh and engaging in different ways.
“Backwoods Crime”, mostly in German with English subtitles, is available streaming on July 11 on MHzChoice.
RATING: 2.5 out of 4 stars