The Traveler (2010)
“How do you catch a killer you’ve already caught?”
Director: Michael Oblowitz
Cast: Val Kilmer, Dylan Neal, Paul McGillion
Synopsis: A bloody, and gruesome thriller, THE TRAVELER stars Val Kilmer as a mysterious stranger whose past threatens to haunt the lives of six unsuspecting sheriff’s deputies.
Val Kilmer’s career takes yet another downward step with The Traveler, a tepid horror movie with few redeeming features. He plays the eponymous character, a taciturn stranger clad in black who turns up at a police station on Christmas Eve and confesses to six murders which have yet to occur. The police station is unnaturally quiet due to some highway accident in a torrential downpour. Apparently, the actual town in which the station is located is the most law-abiding in the States because no arrests are made that night, no phones ring and no visitors turn up — apart, that is, from the traveller, who describes himself as Nobody.
‘Nobody’ bears a resemblance to some drifter the cops who are on duty this particular night picked up some time before on suspicion of abducting and murdering Detective Black’s (Dylan Neal) young daughter. Led by Black, these cops attempted to torture a confession out of the drifter but succeeded only in sending him into a coma from which he never emerged. Only after they had carried out their own form of justice did they discover that the drifter was actually innocent. Oops.
The Traveler is a bad movie in all sorts of ways. Michael Oblowitz’s direction is pedestrian at best. The film opens with a cute kid playing in the forest with a cute cat — and when you see that opening shot you instantly know that The Traveler will have nothing new, or particularly interesting, to offer. During the first half-hour Oblowitz uses the same ‘Season’s Greetings’ establishing shot three or four times, even though all the action in that period takes place in the one location. What’s the point? Filler, that’s the point. He also makes extensive use of the same flashback sequence to show the cop’s maltreatment of the drifter — and, of course, to pad out the running time. Unfortunately, this flashback becomes funnier each time they play it, with each officer standing around waiting their turn to have a go at their victim with a different instrument of torture: fists, belt, plastic bag, shovel, etc — it’s a bit like that scene in Airplane! in which a queue of people with increasingly lethal weapons line up to have a go at a hysterical passenger.
The script makes little attempt to add any depth to a staple cast of characters who each share an inability to think clearly or sensibly when under pressure. They’re also a deeply unlikeable bunch, which sort of diffuses any intended tension as we witness them each suffering a grisly fate which reflects the method of torture they employed on the drifter. Some of these deaths seem to take forever, which again, instead of heightening the tension, simply diffuses it. It all builds — or descends — to a frankly ludicrous finale that makes little sense, and which effectively condones the illegal behaviour of the one surviving cop.