Trackman (2007)

Trackman (2007)

A small group of bank robbers are forced to flee into abandoned underground metro tunnels in Moscow with a handful of hostages when their heist goes lethally wrong. Legend has it that the tunnels are home to a maniacal Chernobyl victim said to be hideously deformed. As the group begin to disappear one-by-one, it turns out that the legend was right.

 

Trackman might well be the first Russian horror film, actually the first Russian film period, that I’ve ever watched. So it’s a bit of a novelty to sit down and experience something made from another country for the first time. Thankfully the DVD came with the original Russian soundtrack and not some terrible dubbing so I was able to experience this in all of its intended national glory – made in a foreign language for a foreign market. One look at the cover and you’d be mistaken for thinking that this was the Russian version of My Bloody Valentine and the similarities aren’t too far from the truth. Sadly Trackman just proves that American influences in the horror genre have infiltrated everywhere across the world. Originality is dead. Instead of being themselves, foreign horror films have the tendency to ape their US counterparts and that’s a bad trend.

Trackman starts off promisingly as a good-looking, atmospheric film which disastrously falls apart once anything ‘slasher’ starts to happen. Right from the moment the group of robbers and hostages head into the tunnels, the film goes into stylistic overdrive with its constant use of flashy lighting, tilting camerawork and copious shots of the tunnels looking all eerie. The tunnel sets look great and really hark back to the mine from My Bloody Valentine. Damp, claustrophobic and with sinister-looking shadows in every corner of the camera frame, this is not the place you’d want to lost in, let alone stalked by a maniac.

But then once the gloss and sheen has rubbed off, what you’re left with is a derivative slasher which borrows more from American slashers than it does from some of the more gritty, down-to-earth European horrors that have been arriving in the West over the last few years. It’s by-the-numbers stalking and slashing which delivers little of the harsh brutality you’d expect a Russian film to portray. It takes a little too long to get the slashing underway and the film can only run for so long on the fumes of the fancy presentation before it grinds to a halt. There’s natural suspense and tension because the sets are created that way but without anything meaty happening in them, it’s wasted potential. Things do pick up slightly when the Trackman starts killing off the cast. But even then there’s little energy to the proceedings.

Trackman falls into the trap like so many horror films in that it doesn’t provide any sympathetic characters for the audience to relate to. The main characters are all bank robbers and the three hostages they take are helpless women and a useless cop. So just who are supposed to root for? The script tries to turn one of the robbers into the anti-hero of the piece but we can never forget he is a criminal – though it seems one of his female hostages overcomes this rather quickly so that they can forge a Final Girl / rescuer relationship. It’s not fair or me to talk about performances given that the actors were speaking in their native Russian and I was watching with subtitles.

The film overdoes the flashy effects whenever the killer makes an appearance. Gliding through the tunnels in shadows and slow motion with some trippy camera work to accompany him, the effect looks good the first time but by the tenth time, it’s gone into overkill and it gets really tiresome. He tends to spend most of the first half of the film posing and preening for the camera in this fashion. Go and kill someone already!

Eventually he starts doing what we expected him to do – kill. From the book of slasher lore comes a killer that at least looks and dresses the part. With goggles, headwear and boiler suit, and with his penchant for pick axes and collecting human eye balls, the writers have definitely made an effort to make him stand out from the pack. The hulking, methodical killer lacks any sort of personality or memorable character quirks but for the benefits of the film, provides a suitably scary presence in the tunnels. He’s also one of those teleporting killers who can be behind someone one minute and halfway down the tunnel in front of them the next.

Aside from the occasional eyeball-wrenching moments (not nearly as graphic as it sounds), the film is pretty dry when it comes to spilling blood. Even though the killer sports a pick axe (and a flamethrower at one point), Trackman tends to shy away from the gratuitous stuff, resulting in a film which fails to deliver even the easiest of slasher goods. Given the nature of the characters, this isn’t a film where the females are going to get topless either (although judging by how quickly one of them falls for her captor, another half an hour and they’d have been getting married). So the gore and violence should have been Trackman‘s saving grace. Alas it fails to deliver on both counts.

 

There’s nothing overly wrong with Trackman and it’s not a complete dud but given its Russian origins, I was expecting a lot more than another derivative slasher. It’s got the atmosphere and it’s got the killer but it’s a chore to sit through and comes off feeling really lethargic, tired and uninspired. Stick to distilling vodka, comrades.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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