"You know that movie Powder? I musta
seen that about a million times!"
Way back around 1982, it seemed like every horror film was filmed in 3-D. While one might hope that that would guarantee a certain level of competence (aren't 3-D cameras expensive?), one would be disappointed to learn that in fact the opposite is true -- just take Friday the 13th part 3 and Amityville 3-D as examples. And as further proof of this sad cinematic trend, we present Nature Trail to Hell, an extremely low-budget slasher flick that followed close in the wake of Halloween, but had none of that earlier film's taut suspense.
Every slasher flick has a prologue in which someone dies. In Nature Trail to Hell, we meet an elderly couple out camping. The wife goes down to the creek to wash some plates, but only after promising to "be right back." And she is right back, just in time to see her husband, decapitated by his own axe. Setting a tone for the rest of the movie, the gore effects here are about as subtle as those in the Monty Python sketch "Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days," in which characters spurted huge spouts of red paint at the slightest provocation. The only difference here is that the blood spurts towards the camera, in an attempt to make use of that expensive 3-D rig. Seconds later, the wife is also killed by the axe, though it's impossible to see anything but the hand of the person wielding it. When a director refuses to show you the killer, it's usually a sign of a twist ending to follow, and our minds began to imagine an ending much better than the one we eventually saw.
Apparently the motto "Be Prepared"
doesn't include hair care products...
If you enjoy the decaptitation of a couple of old folks, the rest of the movie will probably go over well with you. About ten minutes after the senior citizens buy the farm, we meet the real characters, the ones we will know and love for the rest of the film: six horny teenagers who lead a Cub Scout troop on a nature outing. We didn't know that the Scouts let horny teenagers, or teenagers of any sort lead troops, but this is only a minor example of Nature Trail's stubborn refusal of all things logical in its plot.
Right off the bat, things start to go wrong. Their first night in the woods, one of the couples disappears, shortly after a rather giggly rendition of the local ghost story, which includes a boogeyman who "haunts this very forest!" Sadly, for males watching the film, this first couple includes the movie's only cute chick, Gina. The other teenagers, being the second most impulsive creatures alive, reason that Gina and Max just went back to town for some reason. More beer, perhaps?
During their second night in the woods, another pair of teenagers disappear, along with a few of the Scouts. At this point, the final remaining teens, Heather and Trent, and their prepubescent charges, begin to panic because the absence of their friends and the presence of random disconnected body parts signal that something is amiss. Rather than hurriedly returning to town, as common sense might dictate, these young folks adhere to the laws of horror films, which are stronger by far. They wander the dark and scary woods, screaming the names of their dead friends and complaining that they're hungry and scared.
Lest things get boring, the mysterious killer takes a more active role in dispatching his victims, hacking up two or three Scouts in every scene. It's an impressive display of some rather distasteful violence against children, something that would certainly never get made in today's more sensitive filmmaking climate. As the film's pace picks up, the poor kids are whittled down pretty quickly, some of them going down with a single stroke -- their heads, of course, being lobbed towards the camera by some off-screen crew member. Perhaps it was the absence of the actual 3D technology on the videotape, but we were never fooled into thinking those heads would land in our laps. We should also mention that the maniac spends so much time swinging his bloody hatchet at the camera, we began to think he had a grudge against the film's cinematographer. That cinematographer, by the way, was Kevin Ray Wicodal, the man responsible for photographing another b-movie classic, Christmas at Ground Zero.
Realism is thrown to the wind, especially since the killer hacks through more Scouts than we saw marching into the woods in the first place. Plus, let's go ahead and mention the fact that these kids are wearing the uniforms of Boy Scouts throughout the movie, despite the fact that they are continually referred to as the younger Cub Scouts. Wouldn't you know it, the ranks of the camping group are eventually reduced to the last two teenagers and a pair of simpering Scouts before the killer's identity is revealed in the final, shocking twist.
"...and that's when they found Josh's teeth
in a bundle of sticks! ...Okay, maybe you're
right, it's not a very scary story."
Unlike a lot of other low budget slasher flicks, Nature Trail to Hell has a couple of amusing deaths. Our favorite is the one guy who is rappelling down a rock wall when the psycho cuts his line. Later when his body found, his top half and his bottom half are somehow facing in opposite directions. Could this be the twist ending we were promised?
Later, the real twist ending shows up. Suffice it to say that the identity of the killer is never in doubt (thanks to the aforementioned story about the boogeyman), but after everyone else is dead, the killer takes the last remaining woman to be a Blondie to his Dagwood, if you catch our meaning.
Every shred of our being was repulsed by this movie. And if the main goings on weren't bad enough, the movie is padded with lots of stock nature footage. During the early campfire scene, all of the dialogue shots are sandwiched between shots of animals eating other. When random shots of animals aren't available, landscape footage is substituted. This isn't cinema, folks, it's torture!
Sure, this movie has a really great theme song, but it still sucks. We haven't seen a film this uninspiring since UHF. If you ask us, the people who made it are weird. Really weird.