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MOVIE REVIEW: “THE LONG DARK TRAIL” Leads To Missed Opportunities

Friday, February 17, 2023 | Reviews


Starring Trina Campbell, Brady O’Donnell and Carter O’Donnell
Written and directed by Kevin Ignatius and Nick Psinakis
Cleopatra Entertainment

Coming-of-age drama meets rural Pennsylvanian folk horror in THE LONG DARK TRAIL, written and directed by Kevin Ignatius and Nick Psinakis. While some technical elements of this horror/drama feature shine, the film, as a whole, leaves the viewer scratching their head nearly as hard as one character scratches his unexplained neck rash.

Two brothers, Henry and Jacob (real-life brothers Carter and Brady O’Donnell), set a Home Alone-style trap for their abusive father (Mick Thyer) to escape his drunken fits of rage. They take to their bicycles through the woods in search of their mother (Trina Campbell), who, years before, left them with no explanation. The setup is interesting, although why the boys set such an elaborate trap for their father rather than just leave in the night is bewildering. Unfortunately, a lack of dialogue leaves a void where commentary on how young boys process trauma could (and should) have taken place. Instead, the audience is left with long shots of the forest and a confusing subplot involving a supernatural burial ground.

While no one here is winning awards for acting, the film does deserve recognition for its artistic design. Locations throughout the forests of northwest Pennsylvania are well-utilized, and the directors incorporate the region’s natural color palate nicely. The score, composed by Ignatius (who also makes an acting appearance), is effective, at times incorporating an adventurous blue grass beat while at others a fearful synth loop that effectively sets a spooky, uneasy mood. The choice to costume the nearly identical brothers so nearly identically echoes their similar mannerisms and perhaps reflects their shared trauma. Still, it somehow seems a little forced. There are some convincing practical effects, but those are undermined by the disappointing use of CGI in moments when a simple makeup would have been much more effective.

That’s the problem with this movie. Just when you think it’s getting it right, it gets it wrong. THE LONG DARK TRAIL is broken up into a series of chapters, but each chapter is short, and most are uneventful. Even what could have been a poignant ending is thrown away with a confusing closing shot. (Not to mention completely out-of-place animated portraits of the cast in the final credits.)

However,  Ignatius and Psinakis have a knack for cinematography and creating a creepy atmosphere. I’d be curious to see what else they’re capable of, perhaps with another writer’s script.

THE LONG DARK TRAIL arrives February 21 on digital, DVD and Blu-ray.


Ricky J. Duarte
Ricky is a writer, actor, singer, and the host of the "Rick or Treat Horrorcast" podcast. He lives in a super haunted apartment above a cemetery in New York City with his evil cat, Renfield, and the ghosts of reasons he moved to NYC in the first place., @RickOrTreatPod