LOOP TRACK (2023)

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Loop Track Bluray

LOOP TRACK (2023)
Written and Directed by Thomas Sainsbury
Available on Limited Edition Blu-Ray from Arrow Video

Attempting to escape problems back home, introverted Ian heads into one of New Zealand’s largest forests to embark on a multi-day hike. Being ill-prepared for the demanding walk is the least of his problems when the socially anxious Ian finds himself drawn into the company of others also exploring the stunning terrain New Zealand has to offer. Already feeling trapped in his new surroundings, Ian’s anxiety hits overdrive when he begins to see things in the forest and suspects they’re not alone…

Partially shot in Auckland’s stunning Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, LOOP TRACK is a gripping horror thriller from writer and director Thomas Sainsbury in what is his feature film directorial debut. Sainsbury also takes the lead as the worrisome Ian whose stressful antics and panicked performance of a man totally overcome with fear, on the edge of a nervous breakdown, perfectly sets the tone for this slow burn thriller.

When we first meet Ian, it’s plain to see he’s overwhelmed by the problems he’s attempting to flee, even just for a while. As he sets off into the forest onto the loop track, he looks as though he hopes to find some calm and tranquillity in which to try and overcome the stress he’s experiencing. Either that or he’s looking to escape his problems for good…

Of course, Ian isn’t alone on the loop track. He comes across an experienced hiker named Nicky (Hayden J. Weal). I say experienced, but it appears he’s one of those type of people that has all the gear but isn’t quite the intrepid explorer he makes out to be.  Nicky clearly likes the sound of his own voice but is hard to dislike when he seems upbeat about everything, even being friendly and helpful to Ian in many ways, even if he’s somewhat coercive at times. His bravado is fully on display though when we meet newly married Australian couple, Monica (Kate Simmonds) and Austin (Tawanda Manyimo). Monica is an optimistic flower child who loves getting pictures with the various blooms she encounters,  whilst her beau, Austin, was a safari ranger in his home country. Nicky sees Austin as competition and tries to show off at any given opportunity, although Austin isn’t even remotely interested – he’s relaxed and focused on enjoying and completing the hike with his wife. These three characters ground the viewer as Ian’s paranoia about being followed begins to spiral as the film progresses.

Many interactions Ian has with so-called know-it-all hiker Nicky and lovebirds Austin and Monica, who are partaking in the trek as part of their honeymoon, are awkward to say the least. He’s uncomfortable from the minute he lays eyes on them and his desire to be left alone sees him eye up an exit at any given opportunity. However, his fear of what lies in the forest seems greater than the anxiety of being around other people, and thus he surrounds himself with his fellow hikers in the hope that somehow it’ll keep him safe. But as he continues to spot a dark shape in the distance following them, his behaviour becomes more and more erratic. Keen to rope the viewer into the experience, we get a glimpse of the forest to see what is sending Ian around the bend. Unable to make out much from his POV shots, the viewer, much like Ian’s new hiking buddies, begin to rationalise what Ian may be seeing. Could it be the black dog of depression breathing down his neck? Ian’s lack of sleep also factors into the scenario as his fear gnaws away at him with each passing day.

Stopping off at the various hiking huts around the trail is a great way for the film and story to breathe. We see the new friendships grow and get to learn more about the characters Ian has been thrust with, as well as discovering more about Ian and the problems he’s running away from. As the group drink, eat, unwind and sleep, it tells us a lot about what type of people they are, which helps to evolve the story as the film progresses.

Towards the end of the film, LOOP TRACK takes an unexpected but not totally unwelcome turn. The ending, though a bit jarring, manages to culminate this tale in a satisfactory and effective way even if it doesn’t quite align with the tense direction that I thought it may be heading. In many ways, I liken this to the videogame Firewatch that similarly had a slow-burn sinister buildup before taking a detour.

A film that is heavily invested in the journey more so than the destination, LOOP TRACK is an enthralling, suspenseful 90 minutes that never lets you get too comfortable.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Loop Track

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
• Original stereo audio and 5.1 surround audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• New audio commentary with director, writer and lead actor Tom Sainsbury alongside producer and editor Gabriel Lunte
• The Story – director and writer Tom Sainsbury introduces the story behind Loop Track
• Tom’s vision – director and writer Tom Sainsbury discusses where the idea behind the film came from
• Origins of the Film – the producers of the film discuss the origins of the film following their short film (Time) Travel Centre
• Characters and the Cast – Tom Sainsbury introduces the cast
• The Creature – featurette detailing how The Creature came to be
• Production – the crew discuss the feature production
• Cinematography – producer and Director of Photography Milon Tesiram discusses the look of the film
• Original Score – composer Mike Newport discusses the score
• The Hut – featurette on the construction and design of the cabin
• Eyers Forest Park Promo, promotional video for the Eyers Forest Park trails
• (Time) Travel Centre – Tom Sainsbury’s 2016 short film, winner of the 48Hours Film Festival
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dare Creative
• Double-sided foldout poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dare Creative
• Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by film critic and author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, director’s notes and project background

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About Bat 4438 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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