• Donner Party, The

    Released by: First Look
    Released on: 1/26/2010
    Director: T.J. Martin
    Cast: Crispin Glover
    Year: 2009
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    As a fan of cannibal movies, from the silly like Cannibal! The Musical to the horrific like Cannibal Holocaust to the more serious like Ravenous, I’ve seen a lot of them. While I expected to find enjoyment from ‘The Donner Party’, by first time director T.J. Martin, I didn’t expect to be as impressed with it as I was. Played completely seriously without the need to rely on an unnecessary side story or overdone gore effects, it subtly but powerfully got across its story of the Donner Party: a group of Americans traveling from Missouri to California in search of a better life only to be forced to resort to cannibalism because of harsh weather conditions and lack of food. ‘The Donner Party’ is the infamous story of a group of them that chose to leave their camp in search of promised provisions that they find do not exist.

    The film stars Crispin Glover who does a fantastic job as always, but ‘The Donner Party’’s William Foster is not Glover’s typical eccentric type role. From movies like Back to the Future, River’s Edge and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter in Glover’s “youth” to more recent films like Willard and the remake of The Wizard of Gore, you get used to seeing Glover in over the top roles. As William Foster however, we see an ominously quiet, though cinematically dominant, Glover, fearlessly leading the band of pioneers through the snow while conversely being the first ready to shoot one of them in the head when need be. Clayne Crawford, known mostly from television, puts in a solid performance as fellow traveler, William Eddy, the hunter hired by Foster to provide food for the camp. Conflicting opinions and morals set the two against each other on their search for food to bring back to the loved ones they left behind at the camp, and to hopefully find California.

    What sets this film apart from other cannibal flicks is its simplicity. It was about what it was about. There was really little to it besides being about a group traveling from point A to point B and engaging in cannibalism along the way, yet I was completely enthralled. The somber instrumental music played throughout was so well placed and desperate it really contributed to the feeling of hopelessness. The gloomy coloring and close-up facial shots filled with despair added even more to that tone. There were shots with no dialogue that said so much merely by the lethargic, pained actions of the characters. And the end… so simple… and somehow, so unexpected.


    This film is presented in its original 2:35:1 format. Colors were bleak throughout but certainly intentional. Lines were clean and images were clear. There was one crappy bit of a stock photo looking CGI’d snowstorm, but other than that video quality was good.

    ‘The Donner Party’ has an English only 2.0 Stereo track. English and Spanish subtitles are available. As a fan of subs even on English language films, I hated these subtitles as they were yellow and kind of jagged. Sound quality was good throughout. No noticeable imperfections.

    The only extras on this disc are trailers- one for ‘The Donner Party’ and the others are for unrelated films.

    The Final Word:

    ‘The Donner Party’ is an intriguing portrayal of the horrific events that plagued the poor band of pioneers known as the “Forlorn Hope.” The on-location filming offers breathtaking mountain scenery and the subtle storytelling style really makes the reality of these events all the more genuine. Crispin Glover and Clayne Crawford put in good performances, Glover’s standing out specifically. It’s nice to see him not playing the crazy guy in the film. Ironically, however, he is a cannibal. This film is perfect for anyone into true crime dramas that don’t think horror films are simply gore. Atmosphere and theme go a long way and this film is a testament to that.