Blood Trail (1997): Bloody Trails to You, 'Til We Meet Again

The history of America's expansion into the West is a tale that can't be told without a certain amount of blood. The sands of the West ran red with the life force of both native and settlers, and the sanguine soaked history has lead to the Western genre of films being one of the most violent. That's what always makes me think the Western would really be interesting with some Horror infused into it. Somewhere between the jangle of spurs, there should be room for zombies. slashers, ghosts, and maybe even a vampire or two. Today's feature, an under-appreciated indie film coming out of Texas, is perhaps the best example of the two genre's gettin' hitched. Combining a slasher sensibility with a  supernatural story and a cast that looks (and acts) like the supporting cast of Tombstone, Barry Tubb's Blood Trail blazes a new path for Six Gun terror, and it even brought along a pair of Texas singer-songwriter legends for good measure. So, saddle up, folks, as National Blood Donation takes up Horace Greeley's sage advice and heads toward the setting sun and into the Weird, Weird West.

While robbing the graves of Native Americans, a pair of cowboys stumble on a body buried in the ground a different way. Uncovering it, they release the deadly spirit of Bloody Hands (Raoul Trujillo) which takes possession of one of the men and begins to cut a bloody swath across the Indian Territories. A group of Marshals and Deputies assigned to the area, including their Indian scout, the Christian convert Wolf (Craig Ironpipe), begin to track down the killer falling into a trail of blood. As the spirit lures the men deeper into the West, many of them perish.

I know that plot synopsis seems a little skimpy and lacking in character detail, and there's a good reason for that. Blood Trails does a number of things right from impressionistic scenes of violence to its very deliberate pace set to build suspense, but one thing it does really poorly is populate the story. With at least ten lawmen to keep up with, some of which drop in and out of the story, plus a couple of other random fellows, it's almost impossible to figure out names and keep them straight. Some characters, like one poor sap who hangs himself, shows up, does his deed, and is found later. However, I still have no bleedin' idea who he is even after watching though a second time. All the actors, a great many of them non-professionals, are earthy and likable, but I felt like I needed a program because you can't know the names of all the players without a program.

A number of them are famous faces though, well, depending on how much you like Texas songwriters. Robert Earl Keene is probably the most recognizable name due to the popularity of his song, "Christmas with the Family" around Holiday time. Keene is a respected Texas musician who comes from the same crop of songwriters that spawned Lyle Lovett and Keene's co-star Joe Ely, writer of . Ely, who also contributed the soundtrack to the film (which was a bit too much like the background music for a Santa Fe spa for my taste, has a nice scene early in the film before being dispatched by the newly possessed cowpoke. Keene also has an amusing scene before being dispatched off-screen. DJ turned prank call comedian Roy D. Mercer also appears. Equally disposable is the appearance of Heroes' Adrian Pasdar.

While the film is bogged down with the crowded cast, it scores when it comes to its horror elements. While most of the violence is alluded to rather than shown, the cast sells all the proper moments. The film's opening credits, in which a Native American dancer performs with his back the camera and a disconcerting mask affixed to the back of his head, sets the viewer ill at ease with its visions of body distortion. Suspense is built well without cheap jump scares or trickery, and the interspersed, impressionistic visions of Bloody Hands go a long way of selling the danger. Director Barry Tubb, best known as a supporting actor in films such as Top Gun and TV's Friday Night Lights, gives Blood Trails plenty of room to breathe with wide open shots, delicate pacing, and an& understanding of how to build action. With a gentle edit of the script, Blood Trails could have been one of the best Horror films I've seen in a while and not merely just the best Western Horror.

After Blood Hunt, Barry Tubb directed a children's film before returning to movies of a a darker bent with 2010's Clown Hunt, which appears to be about just what it sounds like it would be about, and in 2011 with Javalina, featuring a wild boar who hunts down the hunters who killed its parents. After seeing Blood Trail, I would definitely like to give his other movies a shot. If they're anything like Blood Trail, they should be interesting to watch. When I said earlier that Blood Trail was an under-seen film, I couldn't have meant it more. Poking around to find out what others thought about this film, I only found one other review out there, and it seemed to have been ripped straight from an IMDB user's work. Blood Trail is a film I encourage fans of both Horror and the Western to see. On both fronts, it treats its root genres with respect and both are enhanced by the other's presence. It's not often I review something that I watched sight unseen and like it this much, I hope you take time to put this one on your queue and check it out for yourself.

Bugg Rating

Sadly there's no trailer for Blood Trail. So instead enjoy this video of Joe Ely singing a favorite of mine "Me
 and Billy The Kid"

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