Trail of Blood (2011) – By Josh Samford

Although Joe Dante’s name may be splashed over every bit of promotional material relating to Trail of Blood, this isn’t the whimsical and often-silly love letter to the horror-films-of-old as one might expect from Dante himself. Written and directed by brothers Joseph and Justin Guerrieri, Trail of Blood is instead a brutal and hip take on "hostage horror" which is best associated with such "home invasion" films as Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972) or House on the Edge of the Park (Ruggero Deodato, 1980). These are films dealing with a small number of people being held hostage and forced into very depraved and traumatizing situations. Trail of Blood in regards to its plot content doesn’t break through any barriers previously established in the films mentioned above, but what it does offer is a bit of style and a decent amount of hipster dialogue that attempts to introduce a dose of Gen-Y culture into this popular genre.

Our story revolves around seven friends who head out into the woods looking to party down while camping by the lake. In true Friday the 13th fashion, the group features some very typical personalities who all seem obsessed with sex, booze and partying away their mid-twenties. However, unknown to this group, there is an evil presence in the woods surrounding them. There is a hidden villain in the area who has taken the lives of several other young people and soon enough this small group will be taken hostage and ultimately face off against a series of horrific games that will test their endurance and sanity.

One of the many areas in which Trail of Blood attempts to separate itself from the pack is by its use of witty and hip dialogue. For the most part, the quips unleashed by the main cast are hit or miss. The Guerrieri brothers do show a knack for inventive dialogue and they get some strong performances from the young cast members who do their best to bring life to the silly, and often vulgar, lines of dialogue. If you want to do a mental comparison, just picture Diablo Cody or Richard Kelly doing a "home invasion" style film, only without the time travel or pregnant teens. When they hit their notes perfectly, the comedy bleeds through the very dark material and it makes for an interesting mix that is seldom found throughout the picture.

The real meat and potatoes for the film however has to be the great bait-and-switch it pulls on the audience during the reveal of our villain. The movie does a decent job of preparing us for this inevitable turn and although there will no doubt be audience members who claim to see the switch coming from a mile away, I think the Guerrieri brothers do a great job at producing the right amount of tension for this to work. After we’re introduced to our villain, the movie heads off into a slightly conventional place but the performances from the main cast definitely make the movie better than it might have normally been.

Far from perfect, Trail of Blood is definitely a conventional horror title but it has a lot of odds and ends that ultimately create a somewhat unique experience. I would recommend it based solely on the lead villain, whose identity I shall not spoil, who carries a great deal of charisma and intimidation into the role. A solid little horror title, definitely check it out. You can read more about it at the official website: http://trailofbloodmovie.com