Death Trip

{Movie Review} Death Trip (2021)

Imagine Wrong Turn: Bloody Beginnings and The Hike (both released in 2011) had a love child that measured up, in a way, but not entirely, to its parents’ awesomeness. That is Death Trip (2021). This psychological thriller employs motifs such as exhibitionism, substance abuse, body mutilation, friendship, among others, to tell its story. The star-crossed lovers sub-plot elegantly runs beneath the horror story, giving this movie its own flavor.

The setup includes Kelly (Kelly Kay Hurcomb) who leaves a house party when she notices her boyfriend, Glenn (Brett Howie), is flirting with some other woman at the party. Making her way home, Kelly notices someone is chasing after her. At first, she thinks she is hallucinating. The scene cuts to Kelly getting out of bed. It makes one wonder if Kelly was dreaming or if it was all in her head. Melina (Melina Trimarchi), her friend since high school, comes knocking on her bedroom door, “Garrett is gonna be here in five minutes.” The three get on the road and soon, Tatyana (Tatyana Olal) joins them as they head to Garrett’s family cottage to spend a relaxing weekend.

The group successfully gets out of a snow drift but not before driving over a “No Trespassing” sign. At this point, one begins to anticipate the series of ominous events about to unfold. In the house, Garrett tells them his grandpa died in the master’s bedroom. He goes on to assure them the house is not haunted. But none of the women would like to stay in that room. This leads to them casting lots to determine who stays in the room. Kelly picks the burnt matchstick.

Death Trip
Courtesy of Good House Media

They spend the remainder of the night as one might do if they were in a horror movie: they play cards, get inebriated, see a neighbor who loves striping by her window, and get a scare, as though something shook the house. They decide to go for a night walk. All through these events, Kelly is seeing things. Yet, she keeps it to herself. Later that night, a frightened Kelly spends the night in Garrett’s bed.

Garrett wakes in the middle of the night for a smoke. Looking into the neighbor’s house, he sees her weirdo father is attacking her. Garrett goes in to rescue her. While in the house, a ghost, possibly his neighbor’s mother, appears behind him. He runs to hide in the bathroom and stays there for a while. Certain the worst is over, Garrett leaves the bathroom and searches for his neighbor. He finds her looking frightened on the floor, squirming away from him. In a bid to placate her, he crouches and reaches out to her. Just then, a figure, similar to the one Kelly saw earlier on, smashes the back of his head.

In the next scene, we see Kelly close-up, as her eyes instantly open, as though waking from a nightmare. Soon, the characters are start the day. Garrett is giving Melina shooting lessons, Kelly is on a call with Glenn, and Tatyana wanders into the woods. There Tatyana sees a boot hanging out of a rusty, abandoned car. Moments later, one of the neighbors scares her off. Petrified, she runs to the cottage to narrate her ordeal to her friends. Almost hysterical, she says she wants to leave the town. Her tipsy friends allay her fears by cajoling her into going to the local diner with them. Tatyana acquiesces on the condition they return home after eating.

In the restaurant, they meet a trio of party-goers, and from there the story takes a different twist: some truths are revealed and the friends are confronted with “unexpected” evil. This plot’s denouement is a jarring plot twist.

The first act is slow. Really slow. Death Trip shuffled its feet aimlessly for the first 20 minutes. Sheer willpower held me back from fast-forwarding or dozing off. The acting saves the first act entirely. The acting was so realistic: it was as though they were being themselves, not playing roles. All of the characters carry the same name as the actors who portray them. Was the initial idea to make a documentary, but “life happened”, and they ended up making this movie? The dialogue flowed seamlessly. In one scene, they are debating the neighbor’s zodiac sign, even when they clearly have no idea about astrology. “Leo and Capricorn cusp”? In another, Tatyana asks Garrett, “Marry, fuck, kill . . ..” Garrett replies, “First of all, I do not believe in the institution of marriage. Second of all, I think that the term ‘fuck’ implies that women are objects to be used sexually. Which I do not agree with. And Kill?…”

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Do not expect the caliber of cinematography seen in Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Antonioni movies: you would be disappointed. However, the lack of “artistic” framing does not mar this movie. Rather it accentuates how close we feel to the characters. The lighting vacillated between light and dark when necessary. Together with suspenseful, ominous sound effects, music, and brilliant camera angles, there were moments I felt startled as though I was in the scenes with the characters. Making the entire film completely Compelling.

Directed by James Watts, Death Trip is an average if not fun film, something one could add to a horror movie marathon with friends or by yourself. It was not overreaching or overambitious. Like a tasty meal, it blends in all its themes in a well-balanced manner.