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THE DONNER PARTY
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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: T.J. Martin

Starring:
Crispin Glover
Clayne Crawford
Christian Kane

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
In 1846-47, a group of settlers found themselves trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada. When food runs out, they must take drastic measures to survive, and that includes cannibalism.
Is it good movie?
The best thing I can say about The Donner Party is that it is absolutely well-intentioned. It could have been a sleazy reenactment of a historical event, but it takes the high road, and presents the story as a drama. Sure, it is a very dark drama about a group of settlers who get snowed in on the way to California. What happens when you run out of food and you try and survive? Well, cannibalism of course. If you know your history, you would know that back in 1846 - 1847 the Donner Party became legendary as they resorted to eating each other to survive. Most didnít make it. Either way, it could have made a fascinating film. But try as they might, this is merely not horrible.

The biggest problem with the film is that it starts much too late in the game. Even though it spends some time with the characters, they are already near desperate. We already find these fine men and women facing starvation. Only one man seems to have a supply, William Eddy (Clayne Crawford), and he and his ainít sharing. He is tired of helping the leader of the group, William Foster (Crispin Glover), and has promised his family that they would be taken care of. Now this little bit of conflict seems like it mightíve gone into some pretty heavy stuff. But it doesnít. In fact, there is almost zero suspense or passion. Just like the winter landscape, the writing and direction is cold and bleak but not very interesting. Its not bad, yet it moves along at a very slow pace, until we finally get to the meat and potatoes of it all. Even then it really doesnít generate too much interest in what should be an interesting story.

Writer/director T.J. Martin was trying to show respect for this terrible tragedy, and I appreciate that. Yet everything is so dull and it absolutely looks like itís budgetÖ low. Now low budget isnít a bad thing at all, even for a period piece. But this film really suffers from that on all fronts. The acting, the look of the film, the script, none of it feels very truthful to the time period. It almost looks like one of those reenactments youíd see on The History Channel. All that and bland too. As far as performances go, I did like Clayne Crawford. He does a nice job and sometimes is very believable here. With Crispin Glover, it seemed like he would pause after every single word. I generally like Crispin. He is a good actor, sure heís odd, but the man has talent even if this isnít his finest moment.
Video / Audio
Video: A decent 2.35:1 transfer, nothing to write home about.

Audio: Also decent is the audioÖ itís bone-crunchingly good. Well, maybe not that good.
The Extras
Special features? There are none. Aside from a handful of trailers, there is nothing to offer.
Last Call
I respect T.J. Martinís approach to the Donner Party. This tale of cannibalism and violence could have been much more exploitative but it wasnít. Sadly, it was just too dull to be anything more than simply not a complete waste of time. It would be interesting to see this story told from an earlier, more hopeful time. As it is, it really felt incomplete. I think this might make an terrific movie one day, sadly its just not this one.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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