Death Trip opens with shots of bloody snow and crimson stained floors accompanied by the sound of a sobbing woman before cutting to red tinted shots of a couple having sex in a bathroom. It’s a rather jarring bit of editing, but it gets the film off to an attention grabbing start.
Kelly (Kelly Kay) wakes from a dream of being stalked through the city streets to her roommate telling her to get ready. She, along with Tatyana (Tatyana Olal) and Melina (Melina Trimarchi) are going out to party in the countryside at a place Garrett’s (Garrett Johnson) family owns and he’ll be here any minute.
Once out at the country house the four friends get down to important things like drinking, arguing over who has to sleep in the room Garrett’s grandfather died in and watching their neighbor Megan (Zoe Slobodzian), whose father may have murdered her mother back in the day, walk around in her underwear.
Death Trip takes its time getting to the actual death part of the film’s plot. The first half hour or so has some noises in the dark and a couple of weird scenes that are either ghostly or hallucinations. Given the amount of beer and weed they’re going through it wouldn’t be surprising if they were seeing things.
First time director James Watts and writer Kelly Kay, who has written several scripts for adult films, try to pump up some suspense by showing short bits of what’s to come as with the opening scene. It’s a bit disorienting the way the shots pop up, but it did leave me curious how things would get from where the plot was to what we were seeing. And more importantly when it would get to it.
At an hour and forty two minutes Death Trip is simply way too long. Every time the film starts to develop some atmosphere and get interesting it devolves back into mundane drama. Kelly arguing by phone with her boyfriend Glenn (Brett Howie), or with Garrett about something that happened when they were seventeen. It kills the mood and stops the film in its tracks. When we finally get to the killings at around the seventy five minute mark they almost feel like an afterthought.
And that’s too bad because Death Trip does have several things going for it. Despite this being the first, and only, credit for much of the cast for the most part they do a good job with their roles. It’s also nice to see a film that doesn’t hide its Canadian origins and pretend to take place south of the border. There’s jokes about the stereotypical Vancouver resident, references to cottage country and lots of Molson beer.
There are also a few scenes that hit the target nicely. Kelly’s nightmare features some ominous and well framed shots as she’s stalked through the dark, snowy streets. Garrett witnessing what appears to be a ghostly re-enactment of a murder. Or a very uncomfortable and awkward scene where the foursome party with some of the locals. Director James Watts makes an appearance as the party’s host.
The signs of Watts and Kay’s talent and unfortunately unrealized potential are there. If the filmmakers had cut a good bit of the pointless drama and come up with a tighter ending Death Trip could have been a solid little thriller. Instead, like another recent Canadian rural horror Butchers, it’s got just enough interesting going on to keep you from turning it off but not enough to get you hooked.