February 6, 2023 The Long Dark Trail (Movie Review)
Inspired by indie graphic novels, The Long Dark Trail is one of the latest independent Horror films out there. Official Selection at Weekend of Fear Film Festival, IFI Horrorthon, Blood Window Film Festival, and Be Afraid Horror Fest!, the film garnered enough attention to be picked up by Cleopatra Entertainment for DVD/Blu-Ray release. Set to hit these formats on February 21, 2023, the buzz around The Long Dark Trail is that it has a gritty ’70s feel, draws comparison to classic films such as 1986’s Stand by Me, and is something all independent Horror film fans should check out. Sounds like a winner, right? Well, that depends on whom you ask…
The Long Dark Trail is the work of writers/directors Kevin Ignatius and Nick Psinakis. Together they bring you a story of two brothers (played by real life brothers Brady O’Donnell and Carter O’Donnell). Looking to escape an awful living situation trapped with an alcoholic, physically violent father, they join up to restrain him long enough to make a getaway. From here they take off on a journey into the woods seeking their estranged mother who apparently abandoned them many years prior. Trying to find hope, clarity, and a new life… apparently what they uncover about their mother deep in the forest is far worse than they could have imagined.
Overall, the story is compelling enough. Add to this the hype that the film is a throwback to a ’70s gritty style, plus has been compared to Stand by Me, and you could excite the curiosity of a certain type of viewer. Although, like most films, if you go into The Long Dark Trail with excitement and high expectations based on what others may or may not say, you are going to be extremely disappointed. That is why you need to temper your enthusiasm, have some skepticism, and go into this film with realistic expectations. What does this mean? Well, first of all, it is an indie film… so you have to expect it was made with a micro budget.
In the past some fantastic independent Horror films were made in such a way. For example, there was 1968’s Night of the Living Dead made independently by a brilliant young George A. Romero, or 1981’s The Evil Dead, written and directed by then college student Sam Raimi. A just a few titles that shine bright in independent filmmaking, by and large, films like these are an exception. However, that does not stop independent film lovers from digging through the landscape to seek that next gem. All this said, The Long Dark Trail is what it is – a low budget, independent Thriller with potential, but inevitably falling short.
Shot in the forest of the Pennsylvania Northwest, the backdrop is grade A and the opening scenes are decent enough to keep your attention, but after that something gets lost in translation. Moving at a rather slow pace, around fifteen minutes in you find yourself merely following the two brothers through the woods with little to nothing happening. In fact, you find yourself nearly an hour or so into the runtime of the film, the brothers have still not located their mother, and there is little to nothing more than some hallucinations occurring.
Compounding everything, the O’Donnell brothers’ amateur acting skills are difficult to overlook because the dialogue and interactions between the two seem forced, unnatural, as well as awkward. All this said, kudos to Ignatius and Psinakis for trying to create a compelling story about survival. The two aspiring filmmakers had a good idea, so it will be interesting to see where they go from here. As for The Long Dark Trail, it is strictly for hardcore indie film fans who enjoy low budget material, do not mind inexperienced acting, and welcome a home video feel. That is why Cryptic Rock gives The Long Dark Trail 2 out of 5 stars.