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Walking Supply (2023) Review – Blood in the Snow

Stuntman (The Man from Toronto, Darken) turned director Derek Barnes has expanded his 2016 short Walking Supply into a feature, which made its world premiere at this year’s Blood in the Snow film festival.

The film opens with a bang as the Russian offices of an internation corporation are raided by armed men of unknown origin who kidnap several of the staff. The men end up in a labour camp, the women probably an even worse fate. They’re told if their company pays for their release, they’ll be freed. Until then, work until you drop if you don’t want to starve.

Henry (James McDougall, Becky, 8-Bit Christmas) is saved from the lecherous attentions of some of the other inmates by Kurt (Douglas Nyback, The Conspiracy, The Hot Zone) and Anthony (Joel Labelle, Shadowhunters, Rabid). Henry repairs electrical devices for the camp’s commander (Jonathan Goad, Reign, Troubled Waters) which puts him in position to steal the key to a van and allow several of them to escape.

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Of course, escapes in film’s like this never go as planned, and Walking Supply is no exception. Their plan turns into a chaotic firefight, but the three leads manage to escape, apparently the only ones to make it out. They’re free, but they’re on foot in the middle of Russia, several days and miles of rough terrain away from the Finnish border. And that may not be their biggest problem.

Barnes, who co-wrote the script with stars McDougall and Nyback does a solid job at keeping the first act moving even if he doesn’t actually tell us a lot about what’s going on. The initial attack on the firm’s offices and the escape attempt are nicely done. The darkness during the escape attempt not only keeps the viewer as confused and disoriented as the participants once things go sideways, it helps hide what looks like an improvised shooting location.

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Once outside the camp, Walking Supply’s cinematographer Russ De Jong (Live Evil, Wander) does a wonderful job of bringing out not just the beauty and danger of the wilderness (Walking Supply was shot with Alberta standing in for Russia) the characters are trying to traverse. More importantly, he gives a sense of the vastness of what lies between them and freedom. But as it also becomes a slower paced man vs nature survival thriller, and the slower pace gave my mind time to ask a few questions. Why was the company Henry worked for targeted? Were the abductors from the Russian government? Organized crime?

Along the same lines, who are the other inmates of the camp? They didn’t seem like cubicle workers, and the ones he escaped with as well as the two they met later, Victor (Ian Matthews, Witches in the Woods, Flashback) and Brock (Dru Viergever, The Shape of Water, The Colony) all seem to be hard criminal types with a military background. Henry on the other hand is presented as the stereotypical bumbling, out of shape fat guy who is obviously slowing them down. Why they didn’t just leave or kill him becomes a major question.

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As the film goes on and motives are revealed, we do get some answers. But it also seems as if the characters are doing not what would make sense, but what the script needs them to do for it to hold together. Obviously, this happens in most films, but the idea is not to make it this noticeable.

Despite that, there’s still enough action and suspense in Walking Supply that I’d easily choose it over most of the polished thrillers that companies like Lionsgate and Saban release. It suffers from some first feature problems as well as some budgetary ones, but it still delivers a good deal of tension as well as a couple of decent shocks. The filmmakers show obvious talent and potential and have crafted a solid first feature.

Following its premiere at Blood in the Snow, Walking Supply will be playing festivals ahead of eventual release. You can check the film’s Facebook page for screenings and other announcements.

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