- Ghosts of Empire Prairie (2013) Review

Title: Ratline

Also known as:

Year: 2011

Genre: Independent / Horror / Crime / Sci-fi

Language: English

Runtime: 104 min

Director: Eric Stanze

Writer: Eric Stanze & Jason Christ


After a heist, Crystal and Kim escape to a small town in an attempt to stay low. But there is someone else there to make life hard. His name is Frank, and he's a man with a long history in nazism, and he is trying to find a powerful relic. When Crystal crosses paths with Frank, she has to decide whether she should give in - or fight.

Our thoughts:
I don't have a great history with Eric Stanze's movies. In fact, I haven't liked any of his movie that I have seen. There are some people who are deeply bothered that I don't like his movies, and for whatever reason seem to think I should. I simply don't like his movies. They're bad. I find the stories to sometimes have potential, but they rarely live up to it. Instead they're just boring. The gore can sometimes be effective, but good gore does not make a good movie. The production values are as bland as just about any independent horror movie.. I just don't like his work. That doesn't mean I wasn't curious about "Ratline", since yet again people have managed to hype up a movie. Njutafilms released a good set of his movies a while back, which I recommend to fans of his work, and now they've also put out "Ratline". So what do I think of his new "masterpiece"?

"Ratline" is about two half-sisters (Crystal and Kim) on the run from a heist gone wrong, who end up in a small town where another stranger (Frank) with a suspect past hangs around. We're thrown into a blood ritual by some curious youngsters who kidnap this stranger and claim that he will be a victim of their ritual, but the tables are turned when he ends up killing them all. Frank, as it turns out, is a Nazi who stopped aging after an experiment - and is actually many times the age he looks. He's trying to get his hands on the most holy of Nazi relics, the Blood Flag. What will happen when Frank comes in contact with the sisters? Will he get them to join his force of evil, or will they fight a supernatural nazi?

Sure, Eric Stanze and Jason Christ have built up quite a story here, and it wouldn't be so bad if they had any idea how to present it. Instead it develops in an incredibly clunky fashion, taking a wide step at a time in an attempt to intrigue us. The movie is definitely better than the majority of Eric Stanze's filmography, yet I can't say that this is a good movie. It just fails completely in telling a far out there story that we can accept. It throws together crime, rituals, Nazi history and the supernatural, but doesn't know how to mix them well.

There's plenty of gore and nudity, as expected, and the effects aren't too bad. There are some moments that don't work, but overall it's quite good. This is one of the few things I can compliment about Eric Stanze's work. Plenty of decapitations in this movie, as that's part of the history of the Nazi experiments in the movie. But it's not enough gore for you to watch it only for that.

Despite most things in the movie being bland at most (other than the gore), one of the most annoying things about "Ratline" is the extreme amount of dutch angles. Almost every scene - even the god damn scenery shots! This could be called "Dutch Angle: The Movie" and I wouldn't question its choice. It comes off as them being bored by their own shots, so they decide to just angle the camera differently. Normally I wouldn't care to mention something like this, but I shook my head by the amount of dutch angles used. It's over-used as it is, but at least find a reason to put it in your movie. It doesn't make lame shots of a city more exciting - the cinematography here is still horribly boring.

While we're talking about pointless decisions within the movie, I am struggling to find a reason for the two girls to come out as lesbians. It has nothing to do with anything and it adds nothing to the movie (other than some sexual tension between the girls). Was this just because they wanted to see two girls together? There was no need for a relationship of this kind between them, and had they just been close friends it would have stayed the same.

I'm not nitpicking, mind you. I actually found these things to be stupid. There are bigger problems with the movie than the dutch angles and the lesbians, but it's far more interesting to write about those than about how mediocre everything is. Yes, the movie actually has a lot of things going on and that's good, but it simply doesn't put them together well. The way they tell the story is just clunky and stupid. It's also surprising how the Wicked Pixel team still make movies that look like early attempts in terms of cinematography. They might have developed their gore effects, but when the movie isn't good itself I start focusing on the values of the cinematography. And I hate watching muddy, uninspired cinematography in independent movies.

I guess I will upset more people, because I disliked "Ratline" as well. I wouldn't say that I hated it, but I won't remember it for long. Despite having a lot going on between its criminal and supernatural Nazi plots, the movie feels incredibly non-exciting.

Positive things:
- Okay acting.
- Good gore.

Negative things:
- The different ideas are thrown together poorly.
- Ugly to look at. Typical independent movie quality of cinematography.
- Nudity added just because.
- The constant dutch angles, the pointless lesbian subplot and other smaller issues.
- Bland and quite boring.

Gore: 3/5
Nudity: 3/5
Story: 1.5/5
Effects: 3/5
Comedy: 0/5

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