[Movie Review] ORGAN TRAIL

[Movie Review] ORGAN TRAIL

One would expect a Western slasher called ORGAN TRAIL to serve a healthy dose of camp, perhaps zombie-related camp, alongside the customary blood and guts. The 2011 retro indie survival game of the same name certainly does. But Paramount’s latest release is not just a victim of bad marketing. It’s also just a very forgettable film, offering audiences no camp at all, let alone scares. To any nostalgia-prone viewers whose interest might be piqued, you’re better off looking elsewhere to satisfy your needs.

The film is helmed by a gaggle of talented TV actors, including “Riverdale” and “Orphan Black” star Zoé de Grand Maison and “Euphoria” star Olivia Grace Applegate. It’s an interesting choice for a pivot from the silver screen, but perhaps Maison and Applegate were keen to join Jenna Ortega as new members of this generation’s scream queens. And while their efforts are indeed commendable, few things are memorable about this film, least of all its screams.

Maison plays young frontier migrant Abigail Archer, whose entire family is quickly murdered by a group of armed bandits. After they keep her alive to help them carry out their nefarious (and highly unspecific) bandit deeds, Abigail must find a way to escape and avenge her family. Struggling to survive alongside her is fellow victim Cassidy (Applegate) and a friendly Black farmer making ends meet for his pregnant wife. But all of the characters fall flat, never moving beyond either side of altruistic versus sadistic, hunter versus hunted. The bad guys kill, and the good guys survive. In the end, somewhat of a found family begins to form between the surviving bunch, their union conveying as much warmth as the icy hills in which they take shelter.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of ORGAN TRAIL is its shrill, unnerving score. Chaotic twangs and sharp minor chords convey a strong sense of dread, piercing through the snowy, desolate landscape. The costume and makeup design, too, feels visceral and tangible, particularly for the main antagonist during the final showdown. The climax is as close to camp as the film manages to get, somewhat redeeming the long slog that is the rest of the film. Hardcore fans of the Western genre may, at least, walk away with a feeling of respect for the film’s aesthetic accuracy.

ORGAN TRAIL is a marked departure for director Michael Patrick Jann, whose only prior feature film release was 1999 cult classic Drop Dead Gorgeous. While I’m sure it was fun for him to shoot on location in scenic Livingston, Montana, it’ll soon be forgotten amidst the much-better work he’s done on the silver screen. Perhaps Jann should pack up the pistols and giddy up on back towards TV-land.

ORGAN TRAIL is available to buy on Digital May 12th.

Vidya Palepu
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