Lionsgate // 2006 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 22nd, 2007
You can't outride death.
Inventive slasher film or extended commercial for Trek mountain bikes?
When Ann (Rebecca Palmer) cheats on her boyfriend Michael (Tom Frederic) with temperamental cop Chris (Ben Price), she suggests a weekend romantic getaway to break the news to her beau and hopefully assuage any hurt feelings. The duo takes to the trails, mountain biking like maniacs and breathing deep the great outdoors.
When Ann finally summons the courage to reveal her infidelity, Michael doesn't take it well. But his girlfriend's licentious behavior quickly shoots down the list of priorities when, from nowhere, Chris shows up and through a sneak attack with the front wheel of a dirt bike (?!?) murders Michael and sets his sights on Ann. Terrified, Ann takes off and so begins a cat and mouse game through the woods, where no one who comes between Chris and his prey will survive.
I was pleasantly surprised by this effective little suspense thriller. You can number the cast on one hand and the plot is as simple as it gets, but director Robert Krause has forged a well-executed, lean, mean stalker that is bolstered by strong performances and a jet-like pacing and some beautiful photography.
Blood Trails certainly doesn't reinvent the psycho-on-a-killing-spree/damsel-in-distress genre, but then again, what movie in the last 300 years has? Krause has taken a simple story and stocked it with interesting, believable characters and just let it rip. The fruit of his labor is a flick that rockets forward, stumbles a bit with some corny moments, and ends in satisfyingly bizarre fashion.
The film revolves around the three central characters long enough to build deep enough characterization, then launches into its second act, the meat and potatoes of the production -- the chase. Palmer and Price shoulder the heaviest responsibility, acting-wise, though Frederic, before his character punches out quite abruptly, does a fine job playing the shocked, saddened, and eventually blood-soaked boyfriend. As the signature villain, Price exudes menace. Much of his presence takes the form of stomping through the woods, gritting his teeth, killing a few folks here and there and talking trash to Ann, but the zany finale gives him a real chance to play with his character and it pays off; he's a relentless, bat-@#$% crazy stalker whose motives aren't quite known, but that's what gives his character edge. In the end, though, this is Palmer's film and she's very, very good. Her character runs through a large spectrum of emotions, from guilt to despair to broken-heartedness to terror to anger and, finally of course, to feminist kick-assitude. Palmer is a very fit actress, which was necessary with all the bike-riding and physical acting that was needed for the role, and combined with her general acting skills, she produced a memorable heroine.
Not everything worked like a charm, though. Ann makes more than few of the typical bone-headed horror-victim errors in problem-solving and the death scenes leave much to be desired; Michael's dispatch -- what should have been one of the major set-pieces in the film -- is so ridiculous it will likely elicit more laughs than gasps. Luckily, the film rights itself afterward with some decent mayhem and the final showdown delivers. One more gripe: The copious bike-riding gave the film a "New Hampshire vacation getaway" brochure feel, which did little to elevate the tension. Still, a solid chunk of horror-in-the-wilderness and a film that exceeded my expectations.
Nice tech specs on the DVD (2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, transferred well in its native digital form and a 5.1 surround), but a lack of features stinks.
It's not full-on slasher horror, but there's enough gore in Blood Trails to earn the splatter effects on the DVD case and the acting is terrific. Overall, it's a well-done little movie.
The accused is given a tire rotation, but sent on its way.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R