From the product packaging:
“After two impoverished teenage brothers flee home to escape their physically abusive father, they hope to find and reunite with their estranged mother and embark on a dangerous journey to a cursed forest in Northwestern Pennsylvania, not aware that she has become a disciple of a violent and sadistic cult that dwells there.”
If that synopsis reads like a bit of a run-on sentence, then wait until you see the film!
Because I do so very much love a good indie feature – much more than so many others on the Information Superhighway these days – it troubles me personally to have so little to say positive with regards to The Long Dark Trail. Going in, I think it had an interesting set-up, but the writing/directing team of Nick Psinakis and Kevin Ignatius really don’t deliver anything relevant with that tricky reveal, perhaps leaving the audience with more questions than they do answers … and that’s never a good thing in something chiefly advertised as a Horror feature. It’s a bit difficult to discern when and where this story begins, and – once the credits roll – methinks it’s very clear that it ain’t quite over … not, at least for the two leads.
Brady O’Donnell and Carter O’Donnell play the singular brothers-on-the-run, wholly interested on leaving behind the abusive relationship they have with their father. What I can’t figure out – so far as the plot provides in this 78 minute flick – is why they believed their life would be any brighter with the mother who allegedly deserted them years before. Granted, I get perfectly well that their options were limited, and it isn’t as if they had a lot of places to go; but whatever happened to going to the authorities and turning yourself over to the social welfare system? Clearly, the one boy’s pronounced scarring from a hot iron would be of interest to Child Protective Services, and the fact that there was absolutely no attempt to fill this rather obvious plot hole seems like a big miss by all involved.
Furthermore, just what in the Holy Hell is this nearby cult’s business? Again, don’t get me wrong, but – generally speaking – cults have some kind of dogma that they practice. They have their own rules, their own internal social structure, and they usually have a commitment to some loose principles, be that ‘worshipping The Father’ or waiting for the world to finally come to its bitter end so that can ascend or whatever else. These ladies – of which there are many – spend their time in tatters of their own making (it would seem), all seemingly in love with a guy named Zeke … and Zeke’s only commitment would appear to be sacrificing young men so that he can gain their life force or something. It’s all a bit too vague for my liking.
Therein lies The Long Dark Trail’s biggest problem: like a bad trail through the woods, the creative crew have really left no bread crumbs for the viewers to follow. Everything is a bit vague as Psinakis and Ignatius only seem concerned with layered on more atmosphere. Yes, a general sense of creepiness pervades the project, but when all I can do is wonder what I’m supposed to make of all of this once it fades to black, then somewhere along the way it would’ve been nice if this path had even one trailmarker to steer me in the right direction. At times, it’s an almost hallucinogenic mix, and the fact that the boys pretty much wind up exactly where they started (if that’s what truly happened) then what – pray tell – was the purpose of the journey?
Just to fill up 78 minutes?
I’m always willing to reverse my take if I’ve somehow missed the particulars as supplied by the script, and who knows? Maybe that’s what happened here. Maybe I just missed it. Maybe this one just wasn’t for me. Maybe it all makes perfect sense, and perhaps I somehow got lost on the trail. Given the fact that there’s so very little dialogue – something I’m much more drawn to in storytelling than I am imagery – I’m ok if I have to chalk this one up to my own confusion.
The Long Dark Trail (2022) was produced by Four Eighteen Films. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the good people at MVD Visual with some participation from Cleopatra Entertainment. As for the technical specifications? Though I’m no trained video expert, I thought that the sights and sounds of the film were surprisingly good, especially for an independent feature. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? There are some bloopers, some very brief behind-the-scenes, and a director’s interview, but it’s all extremely short.
The Long Dark Trail is a hard one to fully endorse. Rather than present a straight-forward chronological story with a clear cause-and-effect structure, this one kinda/sorta unspools a bit more experimental in nature. The opening scenes aren’t quite resolved until the big finish; and – even then – there’s really so little narrative information provided that I’m more perplexed by all of it than intrigued. Perhaps if the writing/directing team of Ignatius and Psinakis had developed a bit more story than what they delivered, then their boys’ journey might’ve been a bit more impactful. As is? Well, it’s a bit of a slough.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MVD Visual provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of The Long Dark Trail by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.