So much of Tramping Ground doesn’t work because it never goes the extra mile.
Tramping Ground (2021) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on March 22, 2023
Rating 1 /5
Tramping Ground has a decent idea premise for a horror film in the woods. A couple goes into the woods for a night of camping and discovers that the woods hold some dark secrets. As with any excellent horror idea, however, the execution is where it all counts. That is why it’s unfortunate to report that Tramping Ground comes off as so low-quality that it nearly becomes a comedy at times.
There’s an off nature to how the film centers on the couple, Sarah and Kevin. The opening meanders with them having a generic romantic time in the woods, punctuated by a lukewarm music track that feels better at home in Hallmark melodrama. Perhaps the placement was intended to throw the audience off, making them believe they would see a romantic drama and then be plunged into a ritual horror picture. Sadly, the chemistry is absent, and much of this effect is due to the cheap and unbelievable acting. It says something about this film when the chipper nature enthusiast they meet is more engaging for hamming up his role.
The couple discovers the woods are not what they seem. After a dull night where Sarah and Kevin get some sleep in the same clothes they wore yesterday, they awaken to a dead body and a burning satanic symbol. They also meet the nature enthusiast again, who seems to be trapped in a time loop of sorts. Then the sky goes from day to night. And by night, I mean a lackluster post-production effect that isn’t believable. It makes Kevin’s bitter frustration with night befalling so quickly hilarious.
Soon, a band of creepy ritual holders dressed in creepy masks surround the couple and kidnap them. They string them up, place a crown on their heads, drink some blood, and spout some nonsense about the world and gods. They chant, and their leader comes dressed as an Elon Hubbard poser. Sarah tries to escape and nearly does, but a nearby car ignores her. This climax would be intense if the whole film didn’t feel so stiff, where the cult catches up with Sarah and takes it easy on bringing her back to the tent for the rest of their ritual.
So much of Tramping Ground doesn’t work because it never goes the extra mile. Instead of adding some sound effects to make the knocking-out scene and blood ritual scarier, the scenes linger with this awkward silence amid the unconvincing actions. Instead of the romance between Sarah and Kevin feeling genuine, it comes off so bland that it’s hard to buy the characters. So little of this short film is developed in its adventure that this concept could only work if it had an impressive atmosphere. But when a film like this relies on awkward transitions and a lack of sound to sell the suspense, the cheapness makes this picture impossible to suspend any disbelief. It also never goes bad enough to be funny, existing in that depressing void of being a boring film that squanders its 17 minutes with cheap tropes and even cheaper production.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.