It's not very often that a Russian film comes across my viewing pile, but it was hard to resist "Trackman", which from the trailer looked like a more serious Russian answer to "My Bloody Valentine" with its goggled and pick ax armed underground slasher. Unfortunately, its not near as good as one would have hoped despite a few solid things about the film.
Bank heists never really go right and of course, they don't in Russia either. Despite some eager ideas and solid planning, a handful of robbers end up having to take a few hostages and flee into the underground rails of the Russian city to find their way from the police. Little do they know that there is an unknown factor in their getaway in the form of a psychopathic slasher with an affinity for eyes living down in those tunnels. Suddenly now these robbers and hostages have to work together to get out before he sets his sights on them.
The film tries desperately to be a stylistic and memorable film even with all of the unoriginal concepts it has contained in its hour and twenty minute run time. Director Igor Shavlak does his best to give the film some sort of depth (most of which is sucked dry from a lackluster script) by delving the film with thick atmosphere and lots of great light/shadow work and focus movement. Unfortunately, even some of his best efforts feel far too forced as he tries to keep the weak dialogue to minimum by outpacing the film. It feels too rushed and he tries to slow down the pacing by throwing in tons of stylistic slow motion points that feel more awkward and out of place than atmospheric. Its a film torn between trying to be an Americanized slasher with lots of kills and outrageous moments (where the hell does the Trackman get a fucking flamethrower?) and keeping that Eastern Horror film sense of tension and atmosphere. It never goes far enough to either end to truly work out.
This film also needs more motivation. It needs 'whys' for its details. It assumes a lot of its audience and although some of the acting is quite impressive for a low budget slasher, there is not near enough back story for our characters for the audience to care about their well being. Nor do we get enough back story on our villain to get what the hell he's doing. We get a little blurb about a diseased man from Chernobyl that goes crazy and lives in the sewers and perhaps glows in the dark (?!?) but his need to collect eyes and his madness is left mostly in the dark for the film. Not that its a bad thing to keep your monster man mysterious, but it felt rather lackluster on the script's part to not even HINT at what was the motive behind those goggles.
"Trackman" was steeped with some great shadow work and atmosphere, but a weak script with unloving characters and a far too mysterious villain make it more of a chore to watch than a fun slasher time. It has its moments but is too far away from realizing its own potential to be a must see.
BONUS RANT: The film opens with children's coloring pictures of the Trackman and his eye popping deeds and it leaves you to ponder 'what the fuck did it open like that for?' for the entire film until the very last shot in the movie. Where we get an even more confusing and odd moment that only pseudo-explains why the film opened that way. Were the filmmakers expecting to franchise this bad boy already? Were they giving the film an unneeded layer? Were they just smoking crack? Who knows. I sure as hell felt more confused by that connection than enlightened. I suggest you not expect a full explanation for it and just make up your own.
Written By Matt Reifschneider