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Blood Trails

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Robert Krause
Rebecca Palmer
Ben Price
Tom Frederic
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 Anne (Rebecca Palmer) is a bike messenger who has a one night stand with a cop called Michael (Tom Frederic), after he pursues her around the city to write his phone number on her wrist. She wakes the next morning feeling both guilty for cheating on her boyfriend, and horrified by the nasty turn the previous night took -- with Michael getting violent and virtually assaulting her. When her boyfriend Chris (Ben Price) proposes a biking trip in the mountains, she sees it as an ideal opportunity to put the past behind her and re-ignite her failing relationship. This soon proves to be a horrendous mistake: a black-clad mountain biker turns up, kills her boyfriend, and pursues her around the woodlands and mountain trails, killing anyone else they come across. It soon turns out to be Michael — and he is going to finish what he started, unless Anne can outwit this twisted murderous stalker.
This simple and all too familiar set-up doesn't appear to promise much at first glance, but it soon becomes clear why this low-fi German production caused such a stir at the Dead by Dawn festival in Scotland last year. Director Robert Krause utilises the mini-DV technology to create a very effective Blair witch-style "docu-intimacy" around the tense proceedings. With a very small cast which, for most of the running time, revolves exclusively around Rebecca Palmer's astonishingly committed and intense performance, as well as that of her ice-cool stalker, played by Tom Frederic, the film relies on the clammy atmosphere created by judicious use of tight close-ups, and a nifty editing style. This is particularly apparent in the film's first kill sequence, which could have looked ridiculous if not for the tight, well-judged editing. Krause also displays a knack for crafting affecting compositions that use the towering fir trees and looming mountain peaks of the Austrian and German locations to frame Anne in shoots that emphasis the character's increasing isolation. The film's second act mostly turns on a series of stalking set pieces that may not be remotely original but are, nevertheless, executed with stylish efficiency and engender a sufficiently intense atmosphere of dreadful suspense. 
The film is a fairly standard slasher-cum-survivor flick for the fist two acts then; but the final act flirts with the torture motifs that are dominant in the horror genre at this time. After pitting the "strong heroine" against an apparently indomitable assailant for most of the picture, the film enters some disturbing territory when Michael catches up with our protagonist. It seems the desire to annihilate Anne's spirit and her will to survive is what drives him, and there are clear sexual overtones to the disturbing scenes that follow in the log cabin when Michael finally has Anne at his mercy. There's never any explicit imagery as such, but there is undoubtedly an unpleasant undercurrent to the whole business, and one must congratulate the two actors for the feelings of uncomfortableness they manage to give the viewer with their unflinching performances. The conclusion seems a tad abrupt, and to my eye, doesn't quite come off as it should — but the team behind this film have otherwise succeeded in crafting a chilling, clammy, taut little thriller that keeps one hooked right up to the final moments.
The DVD from Lion's Gate presents the film in anamoprhic widescreen. The transfer demonstrates the limitations of DV technology, although the film makers have attempted to use these to their own advantage to add to the grainy, grungy tenor cinematographer, Ralf Noack's work has given to the film. This mostly works, but there is, however, a weird "halo" effect that can pop up from time to time (sometimes even over people's faces!) and this can be quite distracting. The disc is a bare bones affair and features not so much as a trailer as an extra.

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