Loop Track Image

Loop Track

By Daniel Abelow | December 11, 2023

In his new thriller Loop Track, New Zealand-based writer/director Tom Sainsbury provides a masterclass in creating suspense on a budget. Loop Track introduces us to our protagonist, Ian (played by Sainsbury himself), a mysterious solo hiker who seems to be drowning in nerves. As he goes along the trail, Ian behaves suspiciously, conspicuously hiding from a picture-taking couple he sees on the trail and displaying his unique personal brand of paranoia at every step until he is ultimately startled by another solo traveler named Nicky, who has been following him. In stark contrast with Ian, Nicky is talkative and braggadocio, often irritatingly so. Immediately, it is made clear to the audience that perhaps neither Ian nor Nicky are to be trusted.

That night, upon arriving at the first lodge along the trail, Nicky and Ian meet the young couple that Ian had so carefully avoided earlier. We learn that the couple are honeymooners named Austin and Monica, and soon, the four of them become a group. As they continue their hike, however, Ian claims to see dark shadowy figures throughout the trail, and distrust grows among the entire party of four. From there, the horror amps up, and things only go from bad to worse, but like all masters of suspense, Sainsbury carefully ensures the true horror is always just off-screen. In fact, up until the film’s final minutes, we’re not even sure if we can trust Ian at all or if Ian himself has been the real threat all along.

“…Ian claims to see dark shadowy figures throughout the trail, and distrust grows among the entire party of four.”

Aside from excellent and always menacing cinematography, as well as the atmosphere of dread that Sainsbury creates, the main reason why Loop Track is ultimately so successful is because of the strength of the characters and their dialogue when together. Like all truly well-done horror and thriller films, we start to feel like we understand these characters’ psychology and care about their fates, even if their pasts and intentions may remain suspicious to us.

The most disappointing part of the film for me was by far the final twenty minutes, which essentially devolved into an extended, albeit well-constructed, chase sequence that relied too heavily on uneven special effects. Even though I found this sequence to be underwhelming as a whole, there were a couple of memorably gruesome kills that made sure I never lost interest.

On the whole, Loop Track doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, it just tries to be a damned good thriller, and it succeeds in spades. Seeing what he was able to accomplish on what was clearly a smaller budget, I can’t wait to see what Sainsbury can make once he gets the attention and recognition that this film deserves.

Loop Track (2023)

Directed and Written: Tom Sainsbury

Starring: Tom Sainsbury, Hayden J. Weal, Kate Simmonds, Tawanda Manyimo, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Loop Track Image

"…a master class in creating suspense on a budget."

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