Organ Trail Is a Bloody, Brutal Revenge Flick

Paramount Global Content Distribution

Organ Trail implies a very specific type of movie. The kind that’s bloody, gory, over-the-top, so-bad-it’s-good, B-movie genre horror. While Organ Trail is bloody, gory, and gruesome, it cannot be neatly grouped with the rest of the B-movie genre. Organ Trail is something much closer to a brutal Western flick about survival in the desolate Montana winter in the 1870s. Cassidy (Olivia Grace Applegate) is found by the Archer family traveling on the Oregon Trail, bloodied and propped up against a plank of wood surrounded by her dead family. She and the Archer family are then attacked by a group of bandits. Cassidy, her horse, and the Archer daughter Abigale (Zoé De Grand Maison) are taken hostage. Abigale manages to escape and the bandits send Cassidy on mission to bring Abigale back to them.

The film’s name does a disservice to what’s on display here. While a little rough around the edges in terms of plot, Organ Trail is stunning in its production design and ability to capture the vastness of the American west. This film was no small feat. The footage of the Montana landscape is jaw-dropping. It looks like it belongs in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, but the terrain captured here actually is the American west, not New Zealand. Its starkness adds a sense of authenticity to the film. Sometimes the frame is solely composed of a character’s backlit outline against the fading light, with maybe a tree or two added in. The environment the filmmakers have cultivated exudes a dire aura. Not just for this journey of revenge, but for the reality of those who were actual travelers along the Oregon Trail.

Abigale looks off into the distance
Paramount Global Content Distribution

Organ Trail, above all else, sticks to its Western-genre roots. These films have been categorized for their themes of brutality, individualism, and vengeance in the name of justice. However, instead of the reins (no pun intended) being given to the stereotypical broody white male lead in Organ Trail, it’s young women who are left to traverse the barren lands of Montana in search of retribution amid the violence of her fellow Oregon Trail travelers. They spend most of their time alone after their parents die, simply out of fear that they’ll be betrayed again. There are moments, however, that defy the Western genre when the young women interacts with the people they comes across. As secluded as they acts, the two young women show kindness to those who deserve it, completely antithetical to the genre Organ Trail exists in.

Organ Trail is not alone in its desire to blend kindness into the historically brutal DNA of the Western genre. Movies like Lean on Pete, The Power of the Dog, and First Cow all twist a softness into the script that directly chafes with the American West’s traditional cruelty. All of those films still center a man in the leading role. While Max Walker-Silverman’s A Love Song is a modern take on the genre that focuses its script on a woman, Organ Trail is distinct because of its period-piece setting, the gender of its protagonist, and the journey of revenge the young women undertake.

Cassidy sits on a horse, Eric and Abigale walk
Paramount Global Content Distribution

There are moments where the film falls in line with the assumptions of its title. Moments that come across as just a smidge too goofy and dramatically contrast with the seriousness the rest of the film is trying to convey. In the last fifteen minutes, the film seems to lose focus and devolve into something that really leans into those aforementioned goofy moments. The final showdown is far too neat and orderly to explain the lengths these young women traveled. That’s not to say the journey wasn’t enjoyable, but Abigale’s moment of triumph doesn’t feel as cathartic as it should. This is a fairly one-note film that isn’t interested in examining the ethics of revenge, so the audience wants the final moments to feel like a win. When Abigale doesn’t get that relief, it’s hard to feel fulfilled.

Organ Trail ends in an overly exaggerated way. It’s as though the filmmakers were worried no one would understand their more nuanced approach, so they used the final moments to spell it out on a flashing neon sign. Organ Trail didn’t need to do that. Its more subtle themes of sexism and the historical treatment of women were already a graceful undercurrent throughout the script. While the journey of Organ Trail is memorable, the destination leaves something to be desired.

An earlier version of this review misidentified Cassidy as the young woman found by the Archer family.

Written by Tina Kakadelis

News Editor for Film Obsessive. Movie and pop culture writer. Seen a lot of movies, got a lot of opinions. Let's get Carey Mulligan her Oscar.

One Comment

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  1. This review is full of so many factual errors that I’m not sure the reviewer actually watched the movie.

    It wasn’t Abigail who was found crucified it was the other female main character Cass. Who, this review doesn’t even mention all while espousing the feminist undertones?

    The villain in the last 15 minutes wasnt the leader of the gang, and even though this review, and ever trailer hook talks about how it’s a journey of a single woman against a gang of ruthless murderers, she spends all of 45 seconds worth of screen time in the entire movie alone.

    If she isn’t with Cass, she is with the rancher who this review also ignores to fill its imaginary premise.

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