Revelation Trail isn't the first zombie western, and it won't be the last. But this small, independent horror film is somewhat special to me because it was co-written and directed by a friend of mine. So when I say I think you should check it out, I admit I'm biased — but I also don't think I'm wrong.
When the undead kill a small-town preacher's family, he wanders the West with an aging lawman, determined to put the dead to rest by whatever means necessary. Any zombie aficionado will know that no matter how many zombies you dispose of, eventually it'll be the living that poses the greatest threat. Revelation Trail may not revolutionize the genre, but it does it well and it does it proud, and I've seen so many low-budget zombie movies in my day that I can assure you that this is no small feat.
More importantly, Revelation Trail isn't cheesy, and it's never amateurish. Let me assure you I have seen countless micro-indie movies in my day — been a part of a few — and this is not one of them. Or rather, it is, and yet someone Revelation Trail looks more like an authentic, Hollywood-made movie than many direct-to-DVD studio pictures I've seen, despite the fact it was made mainly in my native Kentucky.
It's not that RT had a great budget; I believe the final cost was $34,000. It's that somehow my friend John Gibson and his crew managed to eke every possible iota of quality out it. So yeah, the script is good, but the performances — especially Dan Britt as the aging marshal Edwards — are excellent. The lighting, the sound, the costumes are all phenomenal. And the sets… well, John managed to find authentic 1800s-style locations in Kentucky, including an entire town, to shoot in. I can't tell you what a world of difference that makes (no pun). And don't think John just got lucky. He had managed to find a fort for the final act, but just before shooting, it flooded. So John's crew built an entire fort using reclaimed wood in 17 days. I tell you that little fact not just because it blows my mind, but to illustrate the level of commitment that John and his crew had to making this movie, and never half-assing it. I know there were countless ways they could have cut corners, but they didn't, and it definitely shows up on-screen.
If you read all this and you think I'm just trying to pimp my buddy's film, I'm not going to pretend you're wrong. But if I truly thought the movie was crap, I could have lied to him and said it would be a conflict for me to write about it on io9. Also, I'm not just doing this to be nice — as proof,
I invite you to watch the DVD extras and watch the "making of" featurette, in which I discovered that my buddy John apparently took to wearing a giant fedora for the entire shoot, like Robert Rodriguez or something, a fact that I plan to make fun of him about for pretty much the rest of my life.
But ridiculous hatwear aside, I'm still astounded that my friend, through sheer force of will managed to assemble the money, the crew, the script and create a movie that looks this good. Even if you're not a zombie or western fan, if you have any thoughts of ever making a film one day on your own and you're not living in Los Angeles, I can recommend Revelation Trail just for the extras, which chronicle the making of the film, the work that went on behind the camera, how everyone pulled together… it's not a step-by-step guide to making your own movie, but I don't know how any aspiring filmmaker could watch it and not find it inspirational.
And thus ends my hard sell; if you're still skeptical, the trailer's above for you check out. If you like it, you can purchase Revelation Trail at Amazon, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and other fine retailers. For more info on the movie, check out the website here.