Revelation Trail (2014)

I wrote in the review for the awful film Devil's Mile (review HERE) that genre mash-up type films are very difficult to pull off, bet increasingly more necessary in the horror genre as fans increasingly become smarter and more in tune with the genre they love. Most of these films fall flat on their face mainly because the scope they try to encompass is far too broad for the realistic restraints placed on the film making process. Devils Mile is one of these films, it get's totally swallowed up by the filmmakers expansive vision, and the films more important  like pacing, and dialogue, become secondary. Revelation Trail is yet another genre mash up, this time a western/zombie film and luckily for us, writer and star Daniel Van Thomas and director John Gibson are able to strike the perfect balance between vision and storytelling.

Revelation Trail begins with a bang. We join Preacher (Daniel Van Thomas), the former town of
Highland Mills, well, preacher, as he begins to tell the story of the tragic fall of his town to an unseen man. He let's two obviously injured miscreants spend the night in his barn. Little does he know that the injuries sustained by one of the men is a bite that will soon infect the man and turn him into the walking dead. He attacks his partner, then Preachers son, who in turn infects his wife. By the time Preacher can reach town and summon the doctor, things are out of control. The town is quickly over run by the undead. Preacher and the towns lone lawman, Marshal Edwards (Daniel Britt) are left with no choice by to abandon Highland Mills and strike out on their own if they hope to survive.

They travel together hoping to find some sort of refuge in any of the old western towns that dot the frontier of the 19th century, becoming more and more comfortable with each others disparate view of the world. The second act of the film becomes a road story, one that meanders a bit too long and becomes slightly repetitive. Thank god Marshal Edwards finally found that shovel though. Digging graves with nothing but a rock is certainly not the way anyone whats to be spending their zombie apocalypse.

Still, uneventful or not, the second act does lay some pretty solid groundwork for the very impressive close of the film. Once Preacher and Marshal Edwards find the group of squatters at the abandoned military post, the film recaptures the energy it had during it's first twenty minutes. Then you can just buckle in and watch some great film makers do what they do best - which is make a pretty great film.

Revelation Trail manages to do in 105 minutes what it's taken The Walking Dead four season s to do. It presents all the ethical, moral, character driven, and sociological dilemmas presented in AMC's big budget hit show in an economical little package, all without losing the gravitas of the message. It's an impressive feat to run the gambit of emotions with the two main character in such a truncated amount of time. It's a credit to Gibson and Thomas as the brains and driving force behind the project, that they can keep script so focused yet encompassing at the same time.

Now a good, focused script, is important but it's nothing if the actors portraying those words and emotions are shit. As Revelation Trail's two leads Thomas and Britt are certainly more than capable of handling the script. They have a natural chemistry together that shows through on screen in spades. It doesn't take long to understand why these two men, with completely different ways of thinking and philosophies see each other as the their only hope to survive. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, when Robert Valentine shows up as the films main human antagonist he helps focus a film that might have been sliding a bit off the rails. The film does fall into the exposition soliloquy trap a few too many times, but so do most of Tarantino's films, so it's not a fatal flaw. If you are the type of movie fan who would rather see indistinguishable CG robots fight each other rather than two actors talking, then Revelation Trail might not be for you.

Meandering second act and soliloquy traps aside, Revelation Trail is one of the best horror films of the year. It doesn't reinvent the zombie or western film, but it doesn't have to, It works comfortably with the common tropes we've all come to accept from each and creates a tremendous viewing experience. 

**** stars out of *****

Revelation Trail is available now at all fine DVD purchasing outlets, and if they don;t have it - stop shopping there. Pick it up and support independent horror.

As always, thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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