In 1882, a frontier preacher (Daniel van Thomas) is tending to his family when he becomes a witness to an event of biblical magnitude: dead people rising up and seeking the flesh of the living. Before he can even understand what’s going on, the man loses his precious wife and son to the zombie hordes and is forced to flee his hometown with the local sheriff (grizzled Daniel Britt). The two roam the countryside destroying all the zombies they find while the preacher prays over those that he kills. To the sheriff’s dismay, the parson even insists on burying the corpses. Exhausted and haunted at what they’ve seen and done, the pair eventually find respite at a small fort run by the maniacal Samuel Beard (Robert Valentine). But both the preacher and sheriff know that the flimsy fort walls won’t keep the undead out for long. They know that in order to survive they have to keep moving. Their main problem seems to be Beard who wants to maintain control of his little empire at all costs.
How many good zombie westerns do you know? Well, you can put “Revelation Trail” in that category because it deftly blends both genres into a satisfying cinematic experience. Director John Gibson has crafted a first rate horror western that skillfully combines strong characterization and exciting scenes of horror. This is a fun film that takes the over familiar and successfully re-invents it.
Gibson (along with co-writer and star Daniel van Thomas) smartly creates two strong main characters. The back story for the preacher and the sheriff is compelling and it provides the necessary motivation for their actions throughout the film. These are not cookie cutter zombie fighters. Rather, they are men who are haunted by their past action (and inaction) who are looking for salvation.
The film is very atmospheric and hooks you right from the beginning as the zombies slowly close in on the preacher’s little town. As in most zombie films, no explanation for the zombie apocalypse is provided, and none is needed. But because of the western setting, it’s almost as if the devil himself decided to send his minions out just to see what kind of hell can be created.
Both Daniel van Thomas and Daniel Britt give masterful performances. The haunted and haggard van Thomas lets you see his pain as he first kills and then prays over the dead while always mourning for his family. Britt reminds me of the great Richard Farnsworth and his drawl and his physical movements are spot on. Together, they make a powerful acting duo that really helps sell the horror.
“Revelation Trail” is a terrific horror western that effectively gives zombies a new location for their flesh eating mayhem. It’s a must see cinematic experience for horror and western film buffs alike.