Red Trail 90 (2014) – By Kyle Hytonen

The deep woods in Canada can be a deceptively spooky place, especially if you take the wrong steps along its seemingly endless paths. The thriller Red Trail 90 takes an interesting look at that concept, and it is an engaging exercise in psycho-drama.

Steve Gatlin (Glen Schultz, also writer/director/producer) is taking the weekend off and holing himself up in his remote cabin in the Canadian wilderness. He is still reeling from the loss of his job and his troubled family life, and this rendezvous seems to be exactly what he needs to get his life in order. He decides to take his ATV out on the back country trails to let off a little steam, so he takes the most notorious trail of them all, Red Trail 90.

The trail, rough and tumble with pools of stagnant mud along the way, is only useable right after the spring thaw. As water levels rise, the trail will soon become a barren swamp land. The locals don’t use it, and it is for the most adventurous of explorers only. Nothing has been going right for Steve lately, and conquering this trail seems to be the one thing he may be able to achieve, doubling as a welcome boost to his fragile psychosis. Vic (Robert Larson), the local cottage country handyman warns Steve about venturing out onto Red Trail 90 alone, a standard thriller trope, yet coming from a very concerned friend. Not heeding the advice, Steve sets out onto the trail with his ATV. What should have been a satisfying retreat in the abandoned woods quickly turns malicious when Steve suffers a bloody and violent accident on the trail. Disoriented, injured and confused, Steve soon begins to realize he very well might not be alone on the trail. As the day goes on, his body and mind will be tested as he takes what may become some very treacherous steps on Red Trail 90.

Red Trail 90 is a very atmospheric low budget thriller. There is an accomplished sense of isolation in the way director Schultz establishes the environment that Steve is in, through the use of some fine camera work. The characters of Steve and Vic are well drawn out very early on in the film, which helps in selling the third act and suspense of the film. Their banter near the beginning of the film was a very natural and nuanced set piece, a testament to the work of actors Schultz and Larson in crafting believable characters. Director Schultz seems to really know the area he is shooting in, and that most definitely translates to screen in the way the isolation works to propel both character and story. I did however find there to be a few dips in the story as it accelerates into the third act. For a man who certainly knows his wilderness, writer/director Schultz takes a lot of liberties in allowing his character, a man who obviously loves the outdoors, to take a few doltish steps to allow for conflict. There are certainly other ways this could have been handled without losing some of Steve’s nobility, which in turn could capitalize on some unexplained story arcs. Thankfully, the film’s intimate structure allows for the holes not to grow too much bigger after that.

Red Trail 90 is most definitely a love letter to both the beauty and nightmare the great outdoors can be to a person surrounded by isolation. It is a fine example of a good story and characters nested in a compact delivery. You can find more info by visiting the film’s website at where you can watch the trailer and buy the film.