Tales from the Rez (2023) Review – Blood in the Snow
As you can probably tell from the title, Tales From the Rez is an anthology that draws its tales from Indigenous Canadian folklore, in particular that of the Blackfoot Nation to which writer/director Trevor Solway (Absolutely Canadian, Broken Records) belongs. Starting out as a web series, it was picked up by APTN, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, for their streaming platform APTN lumi. The show’s original six episodes, they run about fifteen minutes each, have been put together like an anthology film for festival showings, in this case Blood in the Snow.
Uncle Randolf (Charles Duck Chief) serves as the Cryptkeeper equivalent, offering to tell a story in return for fetching him a beer to help cure his hangover. And that first story, “Queen’s Hotel,” is aptly enough about the perils of firewater.
Eddie (Eugene Brave Rock, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Shadow Wolves) has managed to beat the bottle and is trying to save his brother Jacob (Shane Ghostkeeper, Parallel Minds, Come True) from it. But he runs into resistance not just from his brother, but from a mysterious white man (Travis Friesen, Breakdown Lane, Painkillers) who looks like stepped out of a Western and has a supply of sinister looking black liquor.
“Grave Consequences” is a more straightforward story. Savanna (Shayla Stonechild, Siren, Incontrol) and Dee (Laura Royal) are stuck at home, broke and out of weed. Until one of them gets the bright idea to dig up some of their ancestors and sell the valuables buried with them.
For it’s third story, “Giddy Goat”, Tales from the Rez goes a bit off the deep end. Cecil (Nathan Alexis, Indian Road Trip, Trickster) has a roommate (Nathan Alexis, Craters of the Moon, Run, Woman, Run) who is a bit of an animal, literally. He has goat horns, prefers to live outside and eats small animals. They go to a Halloween Party where his looks blend in, and he hopes he might even get lucky. Unfortunately, nature may get the best of him.
“Something in the Water” deals with having respect for nature, and what happens when you disrespect it. Savanna from “Grave Consequences” returns, this time warning her friends with whom she’s camping about angering the water spirits. But the others, especially Devin (Sayder Duck Chief) are going to have to find out the hard way that there’s worse consequences for pissing in sacred water than catching your dick in your zipper.
“Taxi Me to Hell” also features a returning character, Cecil. He’s driving his cousin Wendell (Leonard Provost, Break City, Tribal) home when they see a woman (Elainna Noble, Left Shoe) in the road looking for a ride. On or off the Rez, this situation never ends well.
For its final story “The Sandhills”, Tales from the Rez goes full circle, as Jacob meets Napi (Chris Crowshoe, The Secret History of: The Wild West, Into the West) who takes him into the past and the younger version of himself (Vittal Chillawee Ghostkeeper) that he must confront.
Overall, Tales from the Rez is a solid, if somewhat flawed series. The individual segments are all well done, and they have a nice range of themes and tones, from extremely serious to straight up scary stories. The only major issue I had with any of them was the copout “it was only a dream” ending on one of them.
But at only fifteen minutes each, there isn’t time to fully do justice to some of the ideas Solway wants to take on. Where they’re part of a more straightforward scare segment, like the character’s drinking in “Taxi Me to Hell” it works out fine. But when the issues are the core of the story, as in the opening and closing segments, they could use a bit more time to develop.