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TRAIL OF BLOOD

I’ve long been curious about this film, a no-budget SOV dramatization of the crimes of the Green River Killer by the cult filmmaker Ari Roussimoff, which never received much of a release. Having finally seen it I can fully understand why!

The Package
     At the time of this film’s completion (1997) the Green River Killer, the most prolific serial killer in American history, was still at large--which explains the opening credit claiming the case is “unsolved.” For the record, the Green River Killer, one Gary Ridgway, was apprehended in 2001.
     A painter by trade, Ari Roussimoff is best known in the film world for the well-received (if currently impossible to find) underground film SHADOWS IN THE CITY. TRAIL OF BLOOD was his follow-up, which got a fair amount of pre-release publicity in the underground press, yet to my knowledge has never received any kind of distribution outside a limited edition VHS release. Nowadays the Roussimoff-painted VHS cover art is better known than the film itself, which seems entirely appropriate.

The Story
     A young boy grows up in an atmosphere of hate bequeathed by his Ku Klux Clan father. Years later the now grown-up boy strangles to death a young woman in a King County, Washington forest, apparently the latest in a string of murders in the area. The local police commissioner urges citizens to remain calm while a reporter inquires as to why evidence keeps disappearing, and an innocent man is misidentified by a witness and brutally interrogated by police.
     The latter is a middle-aged loser named Dupree who lives with his mother and spends his days spying on women. The following day Dupree is caught doing just that by some local rednecks, who sodomize Dupree with a broom handle before burning him to death. Further ugliness occurs that night, when a young girl is shot to death by drug dealers.
     San Diego, CA: the killer reappears after (so we’re informed via some expository dialogue) practicing his nasty work in Oregon, Vancouver and Los Angeles. He picks up a prostitute and kills her, which reminds him of an earlier time in which he practiced his nasty work in Mexico. Following this a San Diego prostitute is interrogated by a cop; she admits to being propositioned by the killer, but the cop tells her to keep quiet about what she knows.
     The investigating cop visits the killer’s landlord, who after revealing that his tenant exhibited suspicious behavior is ordered--once again--to keep quiet.
     Next the killer turns up in Bedford Massachusetts. It seems he’s about to commit another murder when the cop who’s been covering up his murders appears on the scene, rearing for a confrontation.

The Direction
     This is a highly ambitious production, spanning several states and boasting a cast the size of a Broadway musical. That may explain why the proceedings are so scatterbrained and incoherent: perhaps director Ari Roussimoff found it difficult to stay focused with all the characters and subplots. Roussimoff seems to favor miscellaneous characters--a little girl, a bar manager, an innocent voyeur--who appear onscreen and then get killed in ways unrelated to the Green River killings.
     The editing might be charitably called choppy, as when the killer arrives in San Diego, which is unaccountably followed by a montage of him walking the streets of Hollywood Boulevard. The ham-fisted Oliver Stone-ish conspiracy angle also falls flat; the claim that the killer is a rogue cop is silly, and has been proven false.
     Beyond that the whole thing positively reeks of amateurishness, from the clumsy handheld camerawork to the cheesy synthesizer music that does nothing but distract from the drama. The murder scenes are extremely graphic, but too clumsily handled to make any real impression. Furthermore, there isn’t a single competent performance in a cast that includes underground figures like Taylor Mead, artist Joe Coleman and novelist William Kotzwinkle.
     The saga of the Green River Killer could conceivably make a great movie, but TRAIL OF BLOOD definitely isn’t it. Indeed, I can’t imagine how this account could possibly be related any worse than it is here.

 
Vital Statistics

TRAIL OF BLOOD
Independent Cinema International

Director/Screenwriter/Cinematographer: Ari Roussimoff
Producer: Ray Armstrong
Editing: Paul Savage
Cast: David Huberman, Madonna Chavez, Matthew Courtney, Sharon Recchio, Dave Channon, Paul Swanger, Tom Burnett, Amelia Stebly, Valerie Caris, Taylor Mead, Copernicus, William Kotzwinkle, Joe Coleman
 

     

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