FEARNET Movie Review: 'Trail of Blood'


It's always a dicey proposition when a well-known filmmaker "presents" a film they didn't necessarily produce or direct. Usually the "presents" designation is something that occurs long after a film is done, and the producers are able to call in a favor (or throw a few bucks) to someone whose name has a certain degree of film geek credibility. Think of "Quentin Tarantino Presents," for a good example, or perhaps "Wes Craven Presents" for the not-so-good examples. (Nothing against Mr. Craven; I simply prefer the films he actually directs, not "presents.") 

Now we can add Joe Dante (director of Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins, The Hole, and many other great flicks) to the list of cool filmmakers who now "present" films that aren't exactly up to their own directorial standards. For some odd reason (possibly because it features his old pal Robert Picardo), Joe Dante Presents Trail of Blood, and let's just say the man has had his name on much better movies than this one. 
More of a periodically intense and intermittently silly hostage thriller than a "stalker in the woods" chiller the title may indicate, Trail of Blood is about a half-dozen young stereotypes who head off into the woods -- only to stumble across a hulking ex-Marine psychopath and his feral lunatic of a girlfriend. After a passable parcel of screenwriting switcheroo, Trail of Blood settles into a series of tough-guy arguments about bravery, toughness, and what it takes to be a killer. And this is the better dialogue. Occasionally, Trail of Blood jumps to life with a murder or a suspense scene, but basically it's a handful of people, standing in the woods, yelling at each other. Also some women are there, crying.
The intimidating Trevor Torseth provides an effectively threatening sense of menace, but the screenplay (by fraternal co-directors Joseph and Justin Guerrieri) wavers between pedantic melodrama (will the main character join the military and leave his lovely girlfriend behind?) and a plot structure with little in the way of intensity. (For a pair of fugitives on the run, the two killers sure don't seem to mind spending time in the forest playing mind games with whining city kids.) 
Whenever Trail of Blood gets a bit too redundant, it switches over to a strange but amusing subplot about a pair of FBI agents (one of whom is played by the aforementioned, and always fun, Robert Picardo). Most of the ensemble is disposable but lead actor Tim Barraco helps even the simplest scenes with a nice sense of glowering intensity. By the time most of the cast is dead, most of what we're left with are militaristic metaphors that don't really make a whole lot of sense -- and a grim finale that at least brings things home with a punch.