The Long Dark Trail Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Cleopatra Entertainment

Written and directed by Nick Psinakis and Kevin Ignatius
2018, 79 minutes, Not Rated
Released on February 21st, 2023

Starring:
Carter O’Donnell as Henry
Brady O’Donnell as Jacob
Mick Thyer as Duane
Paul “Doc” Ignatius as Mr. Barrow
Trina Campbell as Hannah
Nick Psinakis as Zeke

Review:

Two teenage brothers, Henry and Jacob, escape the clutches of their abusive father and set out on a journey to find their mother who left them years ago. The boys know roughly where to look and begin their trek into the woods searching for answers. Jacob takes a stone from a sacred burial mound inviting a supernatural danger to follow. The environment is gorgeous and the hike increasingly difficult, but their goal may not be entirely practical, as mom may not want to be found.

Written and directed by Nick Psinakis and Kevin Ignatius, The Long Dark Trail is a coming-of-age story with sinister overtones. The majority of the relatively short (79 minutes) running time is devoted to appreciating the beauty of nature before gradually turning more sinister. First-time cinematographer Mitchell Kome shines as he captures some truly gorgeous locations and his night photography is in top form without resorting to the low-budget crutch of shooting day-for-night. The story itself is deceptively simple as we follow the boys from point A to point B without too much interference. The challenges they face are more in line with being out of their element, but when the supernatural intervenes, it is handled well.

Carter O’Donnell and Brady O’Donnell star as Henry and Jacob respectively and both appear natural and instantly likeable. These brothers are not jerks and genuinely care and look out for each other without any petty sibling rivalry. There are not too many deeply emotional scenes to stretch their abilities as actors until we reach the final sequence, but when called upon both are up to the challenge. Supporting players don’t turn up until the finale and we don’t get to learn much about them before the story ends. An element of danger is introduced and quickly resolved without much in the way of repercussions and the ending is ambiguous.

The Long Dark Trail has a lot going for it with its solid cast, capable direction and excellent cinematography. The thing that bothered me right away is the inclusion of numerous chapter breaks. As the brothers hike through the woods, hours pass and geography changes, but rather than cutting away to the sky or B-roll of nature footage, the picture cuts to a black title card with a short chapter title before resuming. The problem is not enough happens in each of the first five chapters to justify the number of breaks where a single card titled “Part 1: The Journey” would suffice.

The writer/director team fills several additional roles on both sides of the camera, with Ignatius providing the haunting score while Psinakis fills the role of chief villain. There is some limited but effective gore and some well-placed digital effects to enhance the story, but the strength of this picture lies with the primary actors who deliver in spades. The film works more often than not, aside from too many chapter breaks and a slightly disappointing ending that leaves the brothers no better off than when they started. I am curious to see what the directors do next and hope the O’Connell brothers continue acting. I recommend streaming this before committing to a purchase.

Video and Audio:

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, picture quality is stable with some mild compression issues during the night scenes. The wooded environment is ripe with color and detail and contrast levels are satisfying.

A lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo track are offered and both are decent with a slight edge going towards the surround mix. There are some directional sound effects throughout and dialogue remains clear and always understandable. Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

Special Features:

Bloopers – Behind the Scenes (4 minutes) is a collection of flubbed lines and silly faces.

In the short featurette Artist R.L. Black (2 minutes), co-writer/director Nick Psinakis discusses the making of a mini comic to coincide with the release of the film.

A photo gallery presented as a slideshow (3 minutes) offers an array of behind-the-scenes images.

A trailer for this and other Cleopatra Entertainment releases are included.

Grades:

Movie: Cover
Cover
Video:
Audio:
Features:
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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