There’s low budget, there’s micro-budget, and there’s “drive into the woods on an ATV with nothing but a chainsaw and a few interesting ideas” budget, and it’s on that third chain of the ladder that you’ll find a weird little movie called Red Trail 90.
Writer/producer/director/lead actor Glen Schultz seems intent on constructing a provocative “calling card” movie, the sort of film that was clearly made on very limited means (and hosts a variety of first-timer flaws) but also works as evidence that someone has the drive and tenacity to make their own feature.
The plot is pretty simple: Steve Gatlin (Schultz) leaves his wife and daughter behind for an afternoon so he can trek deep into the woods and drive his awesome little ATV all across the winding trails. The “Red Trail 90″ section of the forest is due for its seasonal flood, which makes it Steve’s last chance to enjoy this solo adventure. Despite the warnings from his old pal Vic (Robert Larson), Steve eventually hops on his (almost) all-terrain vehicle, speeds into the woods, discovers a fallen log where it shouldn’t be, breaks out his trusty chainsaw… and that’s sort of when Steve’s basic little weekend escape turns into an accidental nightmare.
At first our unlucky lead character just suffers a nasty injury, but that leads to some deep-forest confusion, wandering, and backtracking. And then Steve witnesses a murder, of sorts. Or at least he thinks he does. It’s hard to tell, what with the open wound, the dehydration, and the confusing bouts of dementia that start flashing through Steve’s mind.
Even accepting that Red Trail 90 was made by (virtually) one guy on a very limited budget, the film still suffers from a variety of familiar problems: some of the acting is a bit rough; key bits of exposition are frequently (sometimes clumsily) repeated; the flashback stuff doesn’t add up to all that much – but Schultz was at least smart enough to trim his debut feature down to the bone. Red Trail 90 clocks in at a lean 66 minutes all told, and if it doesn’t completely work as the “127 Hours meets mind-bender murder mystery” combination it seems to be aiming for, Mr. Schultz still deserves fair credit for not just going with the standard “found footage slasher in the woods” format.
Scott Weinberg (@ScottEWeinberg)
RED TRAIL 90 is available to stream or download here from Monday (UK only).