Review: Blood Tracks

After more than 25 years as a cult film circulating on fourth generation video tapes and later illegal torrents, Blood Tracks is finally available on DVD, as it deserves.

During the 1980s, Mats Helge Olsson directed a series of low budget action films that the Swedish film establishment simply scoffed at. Unless you made weird art films or documentaries, low budget film making was never appreciated for what it was in Sweden. Olsson made most of his movies in English and with American actors, probably hoping for hits around the world. Blood Tracks, now available uncut on DVD for the first time by Studio S Entertainment, is one of Olsson’s more horror themed films, and is not only that, but also a picture of the pop culture of the 80s.

The story revolves around a hard rock band, played by real-life Easy Action, and their video director who travels to somewhere in the north (actually Funäs valley in Sweden) to shoot a music video. They settle in a cabin and find an abandoned factory where they want to shoot. However, an avalanche threatens their cabin and the entire location, but they can’t radio for help and something or someone is starting to kill them one by one in the nearby factory…

Blood Tracks can be said to be a traditional 80s slasher film, but it incorporates so much more than that. It features the cheesy big-hair, make-up rock band that was so typical of the decade, as well as the post-industrial mutated hillbilly family from 70s movies such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and perhaps even more so, The hills have eyes. There is a post-apocalyptic scent hovering over the killers as well, and then there’s the splatter dimension. In other words, this is quite a complete horror film, like no other ever produced in Sweden. Granted, the back story of the killer family is only touched briefly in the beginning, and we don’t quite learn how they became so mutated; maybe waste from the factory they chose to live in, away from modern society. And the rock band only gets a few minutes of screen time, they’re present only to be killed and to make out with the girls. Yes, they do have their groupies/girlfriends/dancers who walk around half nude or completely nude, even out in the freezing snow. What’s a rock ‘n roll horror film without naked girls! But apart from these more or less important plot holes (including having no hero, see below) the story is quite wide and includes many different genres, styles and themes. Intentional or not, this makes the film more interesting than many of its counterparts, which would be most American 80s slashers (not the few classic ones you remember and watch today, of course). And none of them featured former Europe guitarist Kee Marcello in the cast!

But let’s get down to the good stuff. What’s there to enjoy? Body impaled on giant hook. Axe thrown to head. Neck broken. Man burned alive. Head ripped off. Woman sawed in half by steel wire. Woman impaled on steel bar. Throat ripped open with teeth. Eye pulled out of its socket. Multiple gunshots to stomach. Arm pulled off body by gunfire. The violence and gore count is quite high, and since most scenes are a little drawn out, these bursts of blood are very welcome, especially since they are well made too, for its time and for the budget. The make-up effects are by no means any worse than your average foreign slasher of the same time. Except perhaps for the leprosy-looking facial make-up of the mutated (or whatever they are) cannibals. But then again, few Swedish films get to use a whole, big factory as the location for an exploitive film like this. It’s a great location that adds thousands of dollars of production value.

Looking between the lines, or between the kills one could say, Blood Tracks is not entirely without depth. I am not sure wether Olsson and co-writer Anna Wolf intended this, but seeing two distinct cultures clash – the glossy consumerist hedonist genderconfused rock band versus the basic survival hunt & gather tribal family unit – could be a political statement about the arrival of an unhealthy phase in Sweden, which for centuries had been a strong industrial power, now heading for the intangible information and entertainment society of the future. The fact that modern communications in the film cannot save the “stupid teens” is also a sign of that. Furthermore, even though the cannibals do what cannibals do (they actually don’t eat people in the film, but we assume they do, as there is little else to live on) there is in fact no hero on the other side; neither the rock band Solid Gold nor the video production crew offers a knight in shining armour who saves the day. While there are two guys who comes in at the end, way too late, the lack of a hero or central character is quite striking. Even the most basic amateur film has a hero or two. Perhaps a way to suggest that in this post-modern world, we as the human race are not doing many heroic deeds, with pollution and consumption being our main activities.

Sure, Blood Tracks sports awful dialogue, flat characters, no suspense and a by-the-book story that rips off most mountain-survival films made up until that point. But it can also be seen as an interesting film, and if you can’t see it that way, most of the film is so bad it becomes good, at least if you load up some popcorn and flush it down with a beer for each new kill. And that’s more than can be said about most B-movies ever being made.

Normal rating scale: 2 of 10.
B-movie rating scale: 8 of 10.

Directed by Mats Helge Olsson.

Sweden, 1985.

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