The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got.



Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Trail of a Serial Killer aka Papertrail (1998)


This one first came on my radar in a search of Don "The Dragon" Wilson on imdb, and now that we're almost done with his DTV filmography (after this we'll only have the PM Entertainment family film Hollywood Safari), it was high time I got around to reviewing it. Problem was, it took Netflix forever to send it, finally shipping me a copy from Hartford after weeks of waiting. Good work out of you guys.

Trail of a Serial Killer follows Chris Penn as a disgraced FBI agent, called back into action by old buddy Michael Madsen after a serial killer Penn chased for years resurfaces. He's killing chicks and severing their body parts. But why? What is the motive? And how do they find him? There's a connection with psychologist Jennifer Dale's group therapy sessions. Is there a killer among them?


This was a plodding, more blah than good, suspense thriller yarn. Penn and Madsen were solid, but the material was well worn, no matter how much they wanted to spruce it up, and there was a bunch of extraneous BS concerning Penn's estranged family that the film could've done without, especially since they never dovetailed back in with the rest of the film. I don't know, I just need a little more than simply the killing of young women. I'm funny like that.

I was considering not starting with Mr. "The Dragon" Wilson, because he's only in the film for one scene and that's it; but he is also the film's one DTVC Hall of Famer, so why not go for it. One scene, that's it. No bait-and-switch, though, because he isn't splashed all over the cover, and doesn't even make the first page of credits on imdb; more like it's just a novelty that he has the cameo. What I hope this review does do in terms of Wilson, though, is keep anyone from seeing it listed on his bio and thinking he's in it for more than just the one scene.


I went second with Michael Madsen, even though he isn't the main star, Penn is, because Madsen is so cool-- notice the Reservoir of Dogs look he's copping in that image above. If anyone can play the Noir-ish detective in a sexy-- or not so sexy, but preferably sexy-- suspense thriller, it's him. Too bad he had to play second fiddle to Penn, because had they switched the roles, it would've added a completely new dimension to the film.

Not that the late Chris Penn couldn't hold his own here, just that he's no Michael Madsen. Still, he does pretty well, except for when the writers tossed in those inane digressions about his estranged family, which did little more than annoy and distract me. Also, as you can probably tell from the picture, Penn was rather husky. Juggly, doughy, pudgy, whatever adjective you want. At the end of the film, he has this bloody, jiggly running scene that wasn't doing him any favors. Not sure whose idea that was, but it was an idea sautéed in wrong sauce-- or hilarious sauce if you're us, the viewer.



One of my pet peeves is the killer twist where we find out our murderer wasn't a guy, but a woman, and we're supposed to buy that a male stuntman that was running around tackling and manhandling people much bigger than the actress that is revealed to be the killer, could've done that. Seriously, earlier in the film, the killer knocks down Chris Penn. A 100-120 pound woman is dropping Chris Penn? She'd bounce right off him! And what annoys me more is how the film makers are like: "see how clever we are? You thought only a guy could be a killer!" No, I thought only the 6-foot-tall 200 pound stuntman who was running around as the killer would preclude any 5'3" 100-pound women from being the killer. Silly me.

This isn't an easy get from Netflix, but Amazon has it both new and used on DVD and VHS for not very much. The problem is, anything more than free isn't worth it. Other than Penn and Madsen, this is pretty run-of-the-mill, and even with them the material is so bad that it can't be saved. Too bad, because those two could've been great.

For more info:


  1. Good review! Always wanted to see this one for the Penn, Madsen, and brief Wilson factor. Will skip it for now, unless i can pick it up for dirt cheap.

  2. Good review! And awww... Chris Penn...

  3. Hey thanks guys. Yeah, the star power makes this look like a must, but it's definitely more of a "wait until it's cheap enough", if that.

  4. While this is not one of the better films in this genre, I thought it was watchable and had one unique aspect. Usually, when there's a burned out loser cop who has to get back into action, he's in stylish clothes and living in a neat apartment. Even if a point is made of how the guy has really hit rock bottom by making him a drunk who lives in a trailer and thinks about suicide, he's always - ALWAYS! - in truly excellent physical shape, with a six-pack and amazing biceps.

    But Chris Penn... He's probably the only guy I've seen who was actually believable in this kind of role. If a guy loses his family, his job and his self-respect, I expect him to be someone like Penn. It's a shame what happened to him. I don't know too many persons who wouldn't wish it would've happened to his brother instead...

    I mentioned this before at one point, but this film actually has a sequel of sorts. It has Kim Coates in it and, when released in Scandinavia, carried a large red warning sticker "NOT FOR DEPRESSIVE PERSONALITIES!". I've seen it and I still don't have a clue what it's about. But it's still a true sequel, which has flashbacks to Penn and some talk about the happenings in this one. Truly weird film.

  5. I'm the exact opposite. I'm watching a movie, the last thing I need is realism like that in my lead. Give me Michael Madsen with a little five o'clock shadow and a rumpled collar any day.

  6. I didn't say I liked it. Take Arnold in End of Days. The guy loses his family, has a gun to his head and basically nothing to live for (not even his job, like Riggs), but still has the body of Mr Olympia. And that's a good thing, I like that.

    I'm just saying that this is probably the only movie about "a cop who's lost everything", who really looks and acts like it. And if we really must have Chris Penn as the lead in a film like this, this is the kind of character he should be playing.

    I took some Karate lessons back in the day and a few of the top guys were over 400 pounds and tough as hell. But I'm just saying, that 300-pound Pork Roast in Extreme Honor was more believable as an ex-Navy SEAL than Chris Penn in Best of the Best 2 challenging someone like Ralf Moeller! That's just not how the game is played.