Blood Trails (US - DVD R1)
Gabe loves the copy/paste function and doesn't really have anything new to say...
The moral of Blood Trails is—stick with your bland and effeminate boyfriend, ladies, because the dangerous and sexy bad boy may hunt you down and kill you. And your girly boyfriend. And anyone else who tries to help you. Anne and her boyfriend Michael (the effeminate one) take a weekend getaway to a cabin in the mountains where they plan on mountain biking the angst and unspoken tension right out of their floundering relationship. Things turn tragic when the psychotic cop Anne slept with days earlier shows up and wreaks havoc.
Survival horror is a fickle mistress. Like most horror sub-genres the vast majority of the output is of the pure exploitation variety. Like its cousin, the slasher film, survival horror can be made on the cheap, and usually depends solely on graphic violence and roller coaster jump scares. The best the genre has to offer are usually the kind of films that get under a viewer's skin and offer genuine suspense, but are often not 'enjoyed' on the same level as most films.
Most survival horror will star a female lead, and most of the time the audience's level of participation will depend on the screenwriter’s ability to create an interesting heroine, and the actress’s ability to sell the realism of said character. Often these girls are reduced to either screeching piles of goo, or unrealistically butch he-women, but sometimes we'll have a breakout. Though Blood Trails star Rebecca Palmer (who appears to have stolen Mariel Hemingway's facade and Keira Knightley's profile) is decent, she's no Laurie Strode.
In light of an unoriginal script, and this one is most definitely that, a filmmaker still has a few options at his disposal. One can simply go with the familiar nature of a film, and then add a last minute twist. Other filmmakers may add a gimmick, like a talking doll, or x-treme sports. Some may find bravado camera work and expressionistic colours may be their 'thing'. Blood Trails writer/director Robert Krause takes a little from columns B and C, but doesn't commit enough to either.
The mountain bike gimmick is different (like The Descent's spelunking gimmick), but it isn't enough to hide the structural cracks in the story. When a bike chain (still attached to the bike) is used to cut a character's throat (mid air, no less), the gimmick becomes laughable. Laughable can be good, but it's not the tone this movie's going for. The bike racing scenes are frenetic enough, but too many of them end with the heroine screaming and flipping over the handlebars.
The camera work and editing are pretty extreme (or should I say x-treme in this case?), but mostly smoke and mirrors disguising what appears to be forty minutes worth of promotional footage stretched into eighty-seven minutes. The cinematographer is obsessed with cutting faces in half in extreme (sorry, x-treme) close-up. It's cute a few times but gets real old real fast. Because the film ultimately fails to discern itself from a very crowded pack, I am forced to see it only as another Saturday evening time waster.
The film has the three 'Gs' of survival horror down pretty pat (gore, grit, and girl), but is basically the same as any other similar film on the shelf. I admit that the final twenty minutes or so actually made me uncomfortable, and the people in front of an behind the camera are adept, but the goods and bads end up balancing each other. It all makes for a frustratingly banal experience, save three or four of the gorier scenes. The stalker himself deserves some credit to for an honestly chilling portrait of a boring character we've seen a billion times before.
This looks exactly the same as the PAL Russian DVD I posted a review for a few weeks ago. The only differences arise from the fact that PAL DVDs look a little funny on NTSC TVs. There's quite a bit of noise and grain, but it's no more intrusive than the film’s aggressive camera work. Colours are bright, usually without blooming, and black levels are pretty deep without absorbing too much of the surrounding pallet. There are some obvious compression artefacts, specifically edge blocking.
This also strikes me as the exact same audio track from the Russian release. The 5.1 Dolby Digital English soundtrack is aggressive, but often rather muddy. Directional effects are accurate (at least the sequential ones), and dialogue is clear. The film's music is far too obvious (punchy techno music during the speedy bike rides, eerie strings for scares), but the fidelity is high enough, as is the LFE. The muddiness comes in when too much is going on and the track has some trouble differentiating itself.
Like the Russian disc, there's nothing but trailers.
The effective, and truly disturbing finale of Blood Trails comes as too little too late. The film is mindlessly entertaining enough, has some decent performances, and even a few scenes of graphic violence, but it's just not enough to cover the stretch marks of a forty minute movie bloated to feature length. I'm a fan of this kind of thing, and even I was disappointed, if you don't normally like violent horror films take two points off my final score. Only hard core survival horror completeists need apply, everyone else should probably just re-watch Haute Tension (stupid twist be damned) or better yet, the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
You can buy this version of the DVD at Xploitedcinema.com, just like the Russian one, but they did not sponsor this review. I feel a little bad about wasting Tony's time with my Russian disc review, so I'm giving him another link on this one.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 13th March 2007
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Easter Egg: No
Director: Robert Krause
Cast: Ben Price, Rebecca Palmer, Tom Frederic, J.J. Straub
Length: 87 minutes
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