Trail of Blood


Joe Dante! He gave us Gremlins, Small Soldiers, and The ‘Burbs! No need to explain further, my man. I’m so in.

Before you get too excited, Joe’s just the money man this time around. I doubt he was even on set. So who directed Trail of Blood? How about the Guerrieri Brothers? Justin and Joseph. Their feature-length debut. But they’re best known for the 2003 short The Jackalope.


Their debut? And it hits Redbox two years after it was first made? Now I’m not so excited. Still, I’ve yet to be disappointed by a movie with an axe on the DVD cover.

There’s no actual axe in the movie.


Why not?

Just guns. And a knife.


So why show the axe?

Gun violence, we’ve seen. But chopping a man to bits with an axe? Still cool, even after all these years. It got you to rent the movie, did it not?


I don’t get this Redbox trend of showing shit that’s not actually in the movie.

Instead of spending your couch change on a Sausage McMuffin, you’re renting a movie you’ve never heard of. No ads, no reviews, no actors of note. Why would you bother? Overpromise, under deliver. The American Way.


Wouldn’t it be easier to put a zombie Brad Pitt on the cover, then? I mean, go for broke. Show half-naked chicks, exploding orphanages, and Danny Trejo strangling a nun. Who wouldn’t rent that? I mean, it’s not like there’s a money back guarantee or anything.

Still, if you’re pissed, you might boycott Redbox. Not everyone is so easily fooled, time and time again. Your stupid ass is conned, week after week, but one dipshit does not a market make.


Okay, I get it. Now what the hell is this movie about? People die, yes, but what people?

It’s the weekend. Time to cut loose. A collection of hot young men and women decide to go camping. They have beer, pot, and as little clothing as possible. Some will make out, some will get naked. Some will have diabetes and have close calls where someone has to run and fetch the testing kit, while others will have to prove their manhood to girls who’d rather they propose marriage than join the Marines. Meanwhile, a man watches from the woods. He remains unseen. FBI agents are also in the woods. There’s a serial killer on the loose. And they’ve known he was in these very woods for weeks. So of course, horny kids are allowed in to frolic like deer. No warnings posted, no barriers erected. Enter at your own risk.


Camping and mass murder. Quite the original concept.

Don’t be cheeky. No cabins this time. And the killer is a normal human being. Still, who but a madman could oppose the thesis that campfires and tents and sleeping bags are the best way to bring about one’s death? Sleeping outside in the age of hotels is probably the stupidest concept running. It’s like when a hiker disappears. Does anyone really care? There are 1,001 ways to die in this life, so why invent new ones? Like, on the flip side, it’s pretty much impossible to get hurt while the A/C is running.


These are just some young people out for a little fun. Why root for them to die?

Upon meeting in the woods for the first time, all the guys high-five. “Bro” is heard at least twice. Muscles are glimpsed, indicating a fondness for weightlifting. A couple promise to look for fresh water, only to waste time getting naked. The one dude, Angel, can only tell his girlfriend she’s “fucking hot.” Not once did anyone bring up politics, literature, history, or science. Not a single backpack contains a book of any kind. Shall I go on?


Fake scares?

Fake scares.


A hand reaching out with ominous music, only it’s a friendly hand?

A hand reaching out with ominous music, only it’s a friendly hand.


A guy we think is the killer, but he’s really an FBI agent?

A guy we think is the killer, but he’s really an FBI agent.


And then we meet the actual killer, a bearded ex-Marine with a sidekick.

He pretends to be a concerned citizen at first, but yes, he’s the killer. And his hot, blond, vacant partner might be retarded. At best she’s mute and autistic. But a helluva shot. Wields that gun like a pro. Still, not sure a woman in Daisy Dukes has ever killed a man, let alone four.


So the fucked up Marine holds the group of kids hostage, right? Plays a bunch of twisted games to keep them amused?

First, he makes the diabetic kid keep his arms raised until he tells him who killed the two people found earlier in the movie. “It was you!” And so it was. The diabetic kid is shot through the forehead. Next, after informing them that he’s the “Angel of Death,” he makes them dig holes, presumably for burying the victims. Jim, the wannabe Marine, tells the actual Marine that if he lets everyone else go, he’ll lead him to his car. Quick, easy, in Baja California by sundown. It’s a trick! Escape follows. Shots are fired. But in the confusion, Jim notices a figure in a tent. He assumes it’s the Marine, so he stabs the shit out of the screaming mass. Turns out, it’s his naked friend with the hot girlfriend. He’s tasted blood. The Marine asks: “How’d it feel?” It felt good.


Didn’t you leave something out?

Oh yeah, the Russian Roulette. In a sequence a full fifteen minutes longer than the infamous ritual in The Deer Hunter, the Marine forces the remaining hostages to play the deadly game. Some do, others refuse. The pothead chooses to kill himself rather than fire at his friend. Only two remain standing.


And then the forest rangers.

And then the forest rangers.


Shot as quickly as they appear?

Indeed. But as they die, Jim escapes again. He runs, blah blah blah, then he finds the retarded blond girl and stabs her in the eye. He then hides in the water as he watches his girlfriend get shot in the leg. No matter, as her throat is later slit. Fortunately, the naked dude left a gun by the water’s edge. More running, more chasing. Soon, a confrontation. But Jim is no killer. He shoots the murderous Marine in the legs and arms, then waits for help. The FBI agents show up and think Jim is the killer. Or at least an accomplice. Raise your hands and get on your belly. No, you don’t get it. Oh, I get it. What’s a man to do? Kill the agents. Both of ‘em. The Marine is pleased. “You’re a warrior now,” he beams. No need to tell the recruiter he’s had second thoughts. A dozen people dead, including two government agents and two park rangers. Blood on every tree for a good square mile. Boot camp starts in a week.


Is that the lesson? That Jim could not join the Marines until he learned to kill?

That’s what I take from it. This silly kid thought he was born again hard. I’ll show you hard, the killer says. Shit, he can skip Parris Island altogether and head straight for the front lines.


No difference between a massacre in the woods and Afghanistan? You fucking liberal weenie.

You calling Joe Dante a liberal weenie?


Joe Dante didn’t direct.

Not what I’m asking.


Yes, Joe Dante is a liberal weenie.

Thought so.


So you hate the military and camping? You’re not even a pussy, dude. You’re, like, a parody of a pussy.

No risk, no failure. It’s how I roll.


Quick, before we leave, define a syllogism with one line of dialogue.

“You’re no Marine, you’re just a sadistic asshole.”


That’s a redundancy, dipshit.

Let me try again. “All campers are pricks. All pricks deserve to be murdered. All campers deserve to be murdered.”


No one said that.

Google it.

About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52