Judge Daryl Loomis jumps for joy whenever he finds beer abandoned in the woods.
You're a warrior now.
It a simple thing that gets forgotten so often, but if there's one thing that horror filmmakers can do to help themselves succeed, it's to keep the story simple. In something like horror, where suspension of disbelief is paramount, the more one feels the need to explain, the more one is reminding the audience that, inherently, the plot doesn't actually make any sense. But by telling the story in the most matter of fact way possible, the audience can just ride with the action without the time to ask any questions. Across the board, writers and directors forget this, deciding instead to be clever and inadvertently tossing their stupid story in the audience's face. The writing and directing team of brothers behind Trail of Blood, Joseph and Justin Guerrieri, get it, though. With no frills and the most basic of stories, they are able to create a horror movie that, while far from perfect, does the job quite well.
A group of friends head out to the woods for a weekend of beer, sex, and good times before Jim (Tim Barraco), the alpha of the group, heads off to the marines. Of course, he hasn't told his girlfriend that yet and, when he does, Dana (Mackenzie Mason) doesn't take it as the noble, heroic gesture Jim assumes. But before they can actually fight about it, they find a trio of murdered campers and a freaked out ex-marine (Trevor Torseth, Lake Dead) who believes they've committed the crimes. Quickly, though, it becomes clear that the marine is actually the killer and he's playing a sadistic game with the group that forces Jim to be the hero he knows is inside of him.
It all started way back in 2003, when one of the Guerrieri brothers (which brother, I'm not sure; this information was provided in the commentary and I lost track of the voices) was a production assistant for Joe Dante on Looney Tunes: Back in Action, maybe the farthest from horror that you can get. The two must have got on well, because a decade later, here we have Trail of Blood with "Joe Dante presents" right there above the title. Who knows if they would have been able to get distribution for their fine little film without his help, but good for them for getting it out there because this is a horror entry that works better than many of its ilk.
Trail of Blood is nothing special, but it doesn't try to be, which is what makes it so strong. It's short, it's simple, and it's consistent; three things that often get forgotten in horror. It's refreshing to see. Maybe that's a sad thing for the genre I love so much, but I'm so used to it that I don't care at all until I see the alternative and see what's missing from other movies.
And the more that I think about it, yes, it is really sad that the simplicity of Trail of Blood is actually refreshing given how not special the movie is. It's just a few attractive girls, a few douchey guys, and a pair of villains around a bunch of trees. That's essentially it; there's a bit of stuff with a couple of FBI agents which doesn't matter until the very end of the movie, and even then not very much, but at only eighty minutes, I guess they had to do something to get to a feature running time. You don't need more than that for effective horror though, and on that, it delivers.
Where Trail of Blood does not deliver, however, is in the performances. Trevor Torseth is believable as the marine and Maggie Vandenberghe (Aliens in the Attic) is nice and creepy as his silent girlfriend, but the teens we're supposed to be rooting for run the gambit between irritating and amateurish, with Tim Barraco unfortunately delivering one of the more underwhelming lead performances I've seen in a while. For a prospective marine, he shows no confidence and is completely unbelievable in the role. He might look the part, but he just doesn't have the chops to stand up to Torseth, who feels genuine and pretty scary.
His performance really makes up for the rest of them and comes off as one of the more likeable horror villains in a while and, with the simplicity of the story, its straightforward telling, and a generous body count, I can easily recommend Trail of Blood to horror fans.
Trail of Blood comes to DVD from Lions Gate in a decent release. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks predictably strong, with a crisp transfer, good detail, and strong colors. The sound is strong, as well, with an active surround mix that has good action in the rear channels and perfectly clear music and dialog. None of it is spectacular, but it all works just fine.
The only significant extra on the disc is the audio commentary with the Guerrieri brothers, who are understandably excited to talk about their movie. They go over all aspects of the production, from inception to completion. There are no big revelations in it or anything, but it's a perfectly engaging, enjoyable look at the film. The only additional extra is a trailer.
Trail of Blood isn't particularly special in any way, but it works and, for low budget horror, that's generally enough. It's short and to the point, features a decent amount of bloodshed, delivers some suspenseful moments. All of that more than makes up for the weak lead performance and, for those out there looking to scratch that cheap horror itch, this should work just fine.
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