4/3/17

THE TRAVELER (2006)

Written by Richard Taylor.

Film maker Jon Skocik's The Traveler is one of those films which was released by Brain Damage and not much notice was given to it.  Brain Damage release a slew of stuff and occasionally like many labels really deliver some gems which fans might have overlooked or have never heard of previously.  Another couple noteworthy Brain Damage releases that come to mind are Kill Syndrome and Stockholm Syndrome.






I got in contact with Jon Skocik after checking out screen shots from The Traveler in a gore group I inhabit on Facebook.  The stills from the movie delivered unparalleled low budget practical gore reminiscent of the work of noteworthy European gore specialists such as Olaf Ittenbach, Andreas Schnaas, Marc Rohnstock, Stefan Svahn, Timo Rose etc.  Being a gore fan I was automatically drawn to the movie and looked up director Skocik on Facebook and found him.

I expressed my interest in the movie and to my surprise he told me the initial cut of the film he personally found to be pretentious as he felt he had to flesh out characters and the story but he wasn't completely pleased with the final result.  He told me he would re cut the film and upload the new cut to YouTube, which he did.  This new cut he told me is a shorter but tighter and better flowing cut trimming the fat (no pun intended) and using the original ending which Skocik said he preferred over the ending which was used when The Traveler was originally released.  Here's the message Skocik sent me and I will share here:

"You are the second person to show an interest in The Traveler this month. This has prompted me to do something I've been contemplating for a long time... I'm re cutting The Traveler.
You see, the film that I set out to make way back in 2001 was a very compact horror flick intended as a throwback to the grind house splatter films of the 70s and 80s. The first cut ran long and I wasn't really happy with it. Also, certain members of the production team talked me into shooting additional scenes to flesh out the characters. To make room for the new scenes, I shortened some of the horror set pieces, which were much longer than they needed to be. I've long felt that the resulting film was very uneven and perhaps a bit pretentious. So now, all these years later, I want to finally present the film that I set out to make - or at least as close to that as I can get with the existing footage.


I've excised the added scenes while keeping the more streamlined horror scenes, which should result in a tighter, more satisfying flow. And best of all, I've restored the original ending, which is pretty much unanimously agreed to be superior."

I couldn't agree with Skocik more because this cut is superior.  I believe that this original ending suits the movie more and is much more effective as I personally felt the ending that was initially released dragged on for too long and didn't suit the film as much.  There is no added gore in this cut but there doesn't need to be because what's here is already an ample amount.

The Traveler has a couple named Alan (Skocik) and Suzan (Melanie D'Alessandro) Chesterson who decide to get away for a little vacation retreat but get lost on their way on some back roads due to a detour and end up with their car mysteriously breaking down.  The couple go to a nearby dilapidated house which seems to be inhabited by some people.  The Chesterson's approach the group for help and they kindly oblige but to no avail can they get the car running or get cellphone service.  The group of friends suggest the couple stay the night with them and hike back to town where they came from to get some help in the morning.  The group regularly stay in the house on occasion which they call the death house and use it as a hang out spot.  They then tell The Chestersons the story behind the houses name which involves various gruesome murders.  The group assure the Chestersons nothing has ever actually happened to them on their visits but little do they know tonight  that is about to change.

A man in a business suit simply referring to himself as The Traveler (Shawn Burke) walks in through the front door with a very calm yet sinister demeanor  and welcomes them all.  He then immediately sets the ground rules for a game where each person will vote for someone die and the person with the most votes gets tortured to death.  The group try to overpower The Traveler in a couple of instances but he is obviously not human and possessing supernatural powers plus he has enabled them the ability to escape from the house.

I enjoyed The Traveler, its a very low budget indie film but I felt Skocik did a capable and believable job with his performance in the lead role and Shawn Burke plays a good character as the mysterious and evil Traveler.  The acting in general in these types of productions is hit or miss but it was competent enough to make it believable and i have watched many zero budget indie films to come to this realization.  The practical gore effects are what stand out in this movie because they are done with incredible precision with this type of budget.

The Traveler inflicts many tortures on the cast members who get voted to die such as a blow torch to the arms, teeth getting chiseled out, necks getting filleted, hooks protruding through mouths and eyes, faces melted off, shotgun head blasts and in one memorable scene the skin and muscle is slowly carved off a womans legs, arms and face in gruesome detail.  My only qualm and this goes for a lot of these types of films in general is the lack of terror from the cast members as they are getting tortured.

I recommend The Traveler to all fans of low budget indie gore cinema as it delivers on the effects, what I felt was a cool story and generally convincing performances from the cast.  Get in touch with Jon Skocik for this cut of the film which Jon has made available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtmK5UCHy3E&t but if you crave a physical copy of the original cut you can get one on eBay or Amazon.  Special thanks to Jon Skocik for putting this cut of The Traveler together as it was a pleasure to watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.



Directed by: Jonathan R. Skocik
Written by: Jonathan R. Skocik
Produced by: Jonathan R. Skocik
Cinematography by: Mark Rapp, Jonathan R. Skocik
Editing by: David Scott Eger, Jonathan R. Skocik
Music by: Brian Diskeker, Kirk Hazen
Special Effects by: Steve Tolin, Jonathan R. Skocik, Erica Highberg, Phil Elkins, William Tolin
Cast: Jonathan R. Skocik, Shawn Burke, Melanie D'Alessandro, David L. Penn, Erica Highberg, Joseph L. Webster, Scott Clarke, Mike Barret
Year: 2006
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1h 16min

Distributor: Brain Damage Films


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