Starring: Thomas Sainsbury, Hayden J. Weal and Tawanda Manyimo
Directed by: Thomas Sainsbury
Running Time: 96 minutes
Dark Sky Films
Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars
At the opening of “Loop Track,” Ian (Thomas Sainsbury) is ignoring call after call as he parks his car at the edge of a New Zealand wilderness. Sweat percolates his head even though it doesn’t appear to be hot outside. Once he sets out on a hike, to who knows where, he avoids hikers as best as he can. It’s obvious that something is going on with Ian, but we don’t know what it is. Is he outrunning somebody? Is he worried about running into someone he knows? Why is he seemingly escaping into the woods for a hike?
The potential answers are sidelined when Ian runs into the overly talkative Nicky (Hayden J. Weal). Instead of revealing what bugs him with the Nicky, who overshares about everything, Ian doubles down on the awkwardness and sweating. Stuck together, the duo stops at a hiking trail cabin for the night, encountering a honeymooning couple, Monica (Kate Simmonds) and Austin (Twaanda Manyimo). Just like the viewer, they realize something is off with Ian, but no one can figure out what it is. Oddly enough, they have a lot of patience for his panicky shenanigans.
“Loop Track” is a near masterclass in suspense, making you wonder if Ian is experiencing stress-induced delusions, if he’s legitimately seeing something distant and foreboding in the surrounding woods, or if he’s the true terror. I give major props to Sainsbury, who also wrote and directed the film. So much of the film is carried through his embarrassingly shy, self-loathing cringe character. Sainsbury also writes a perfect counter balance to Ian through Nicky, an unnaturally cheery, comic relief who seems more focused on getting laid by every female he encounters, rather than Ian’s growing paranoia. The newlyweds play as a middle ground between the two, reacting with nuance and grounded reality to Nicky’s horniness and Ian’s fears.
The payoff in the film is unpredictable, truly. Is it a good payoff though? It’s something I’ve been struggling with. My emotions in the final act ranged from genuine surprise to disappointment. That being said, the movie is crafted in such a way, even if the payoff doesn’t work for you, it has it’s claws in you and you can’t turn away. While Sainsbury may be known more for his comedic chops and talents, he has a keen sixth sense for horror. If “Loop Track” is a sign of Sainsbury’s prowess for horror, I can’t wait to see what he has in store next.