Genre: Thriller, Horror, Western
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 52m
Director(s): Michael Patrick Jann
Writer(s): Megan Turner
Cast: Zoé De Grand'Maison, Nicholas Logan, Olivia Applegate, Michael Abbott Jr., Jessica Frances Dukes, Clé Bennett, Sam Trammell
Where To Watch: available to Buy on Digital May 12, 2023
RAVING REVIEW: The world was different in the Wild West, and ORGAN TRAIL tells the harrowing story of a family tormented by a brutal gang of bandits. Under the direction of Michael Patrick Jann and written by Meg Turner, the film finds its footing among contemporary Westerns, thanks to the resurgence of interest in the genre.
Many things go right in this Western Thriller, including gorgeous scenery and intense action scenes. However, its name isn’t one of them, especially since it was supposedly created by an accidental typo while researching. Don’t get me wrong, as a child who grew up in the 80s, I loved The Oregon Trail computer game; it was part of my childhood, and I loved every unnecessary creative death in the game. Had they leaned into that and made a video game parody, this could have been one of my favorite films of the year.
Centered around Abigail Archer, played wonderfully by Zoé De Grand Maison, the story unfolds as she witnesses her family's terrifying demise. With the help of a local rancher, portrayed by Clé Bennett, she embarks on a daring mission to confront the bandits and save the little she has left. The stunning visuals of the Montana mountains, captured by cinematographer Joe Kessler, emphasize the desolation and dangers of the Northwest. It’s odd to point out mountains as being such a highlight of a film, but that was ultimately so important to the entire story. The idea of being in the middle of nowhere made everything more plausible.
While ORGAN TRAIL leans towards the Western thriller genre, it shies away from more of the typical horror elements, such as the supernatural and jump scares. The film excels in using practical effects when depicting injuries. The blood-soaked aftermath of battles provides a striking contrast to the snowy landscapes. That shocked me, I would have assumed they would’ve used CGI or tricky editing, but you get right in there with them instead.
However, ORGAN TRAIL's slow burn is probably its biggest knock; it would have benefited from a streamlined runtime and quicker pacing to heighten viewer engagement. The movie's eerie and impactful score amplifies the desolate setting. The costume and makeup design earned all its praise; that finale was a blast, with much of the excitement being shown there. Western genre fans may appreciate the film's authentic aesthetics; I’m not a huge Western fan, so I hoped for more horror elements to pop up.
Ultimately, ORGAN TRAIL is worth watching for its captivating visuals, but I wish it had broken new ground within the genre. The unique blend of Western and thriller themes is bound to captivate and entertain some viewers, especially if you like old-school Westerns modernized in terms of their technical prowess while still feeling authentic to the period.
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[photo courtesy of TFP/PARAMOUNT]