I guess I have this picture in my mind of foreign moviegoers being wise enough to avoid the sort of low-grade cinema us Americans gobble up by the truckload. But that mindset took a nose-dive out the window the minute I began watching Ghost House Underground’s Trackman. This Russian slasher flick is actually perfect for breaching cultural barriers, since it’s every bit as lazy and derivative as the majority of its counterparts on this side of the pond. Those wary of anything with subtitles need not fear Trackman, for its cliched nature speaks better for the film than any words can.
In the aftermath of a botched bank heist, a group of thieves are making a quick escape with a few hostages in tow. Unfortunately, their plans include fleeing into a system of underground tunnels rumored to be home to a man warped by the effects of the Chernobyl disaster. Sure enough, just as tensions are starting to rise in the group, the titular fiend makes himself known and begins stalking the group. One by one, they fall victim to the Trackman, who has a nasty habit of plucking out their eyes just before they die. But with this madman on the loose, the crooks and their captives decide to band together and find a way out before they all meet the business end of a pickaxe.
I think it was Roger Ebert who mentioned how the slasher genre is its own star. No one goes to these flicks expecting award-worthy acting or stirring dialogue; such patrons are there for the shocks and the shocks alone. Trackman isn’t a good film by any means, but it gets bonus points for knowing exactly what its viewers want. It maintains an extremely bare-bones approach, pairing the psychopath du jour with a new crop of victims and pretty much leaving them to their own devices. You might say that Trackman is the sort of movie that could direct itself, but its own creators have taken this a little too literally. While some directors go for broke when given the reigns to a slasher flick, the team behind Trackman couldn’t care less. They muster up the bare minimum of ingredients and throw them together without the slightest hint of energy or style. Even at a mere 81 minutes, the pacing is incredibly sluggish, and the flick’s idea of visual flair is tilting the camera anytime the Trackman pops up.
There’s nothing about Trackman that gives it its own identity. For the most part, it plays like a mishmash of My Bloody Valentine and See No Evil, combining the miner’s get-up of the former with the latter’s arbitrary eyeball gore. You’d think the filmmakers would compensate by way of some outlandish bloodletting, but the Trackman crew even manages to screw up in this department. Aside from the occasional gouging, the flick is pretty dry, which makes the “unrated” tag slapped on the cover art something of a misnomer. Also, don’t expect the Trackman to earn a place in the Slasher Hall of Fame. The movie has a strange preoccupation with showing him walking around rather than actually killing anyone, which doesn’t really contribute to a foreboding reputation. I’m betting home movies of this guy’s Sunday morning strolls are even more frightening. Weirdly enough, though, one thing the film is adamant on is making you remember who its characters are. Half their dialogue consists of screaming each other’s names, but it’s a nice change of pace from the genre’s usual roster of dispensable faces.
I wouldn’t accuse Trackman of being terrible as much as I would of lacking ambition. Worse horror movies have been made, but considering this came from the same country that brought the trippy Night Watch series to the world, you’d think it would arrive with a little more oomph. Just chalk Trackman up as the latest straight-to-DVD chiller destined to toil in horror obscurity.