Monday, December 11, 2023

Loop Track: theological film review

Steve standing beside Loop Track film billboard Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 170 plus films later, here is the review for December 2023.

Loop Track
A film review by Dr Steve Taylor

With days lengthening and summer peeking around the corner, many Kiwis will embrace the outdoors. Bush tracks beckon, with the promise of bird song and river bank. We might find ourselves walking behind tourists, eager for a sighting of our flightless birds. Loop Track is Kiwi made horror that presents a darker vision of our great outdoors.

In Loop Track, Ian (Thomas Sainsbury) heads bush. On the edge of a nervous breakdown, desperate to dodge human contact, Ian starts at every sound.

As Ian imagines the worst, his fellow trampers provide a kindly foil. Nicky (Hayden J. Weal) offers tramping socks for Ian’s blistered feet. Monica (Kate Simmonds) gives flowers to brighten Ian’s mood. Austin (Tawanda Manyimo) shares stories from his country of origin.

The mood of Loop Track darkens when Nicky disappears. A gentle humouring of a man jumping at every shadow suddenly shifts. What if dark, not light, lurks around the bend?

The bush as a character plays a variety of roles in the films of Aotearoa New Zealand. In Muru (2023), alienated Māori find identity in the bush. In We are Still Here (2023), the outdoors is shelter for Māori avoiding settler lust for land. In these films, the outdoors offers plenty as places of connection and re-connection.

In other Aotearoa films, the bush is a place of darkness. The suspense of Sleeping Dogs (1977) and the isolation of The Piano (1993) rely on the bush as a place of unease. These films are in step with the poetry of James K Baxter and his description in The Mountains of the outdoors as a cold and crouching menace.

Mention horror films, and we think of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960s film Psycho or Jonathan Demme’s 1991 The Silence of the Lambs. Horror films draw on light and sound. Shadows hide, creating uncertainty. Sound amplifies the beating of a fearful heart.

Both sound and light are skillfully used in Loop Track. Thomas Sainsbury not only plays Ian. He also writes and directs. Better known for comedy, Loop Track showcases Sainsbury’s many talents.

Horror is an increasingly popular genre of film, rising from 3 per cent of the market in 1995 to nearly 18 per cent in 2021. How might Christians engage with this trending genre? For theologian, Dr. Mark Eckel, horror offers a form of truth-telling. Watching horror, we find ourselves reflecting on the origins of evil, the nature of the supernatural and the darkness of human nature. For Chad and Carey Hayes, who partnered in writing the first two Conjuring movies, horror creates arcs of redemption.

“What we’ve tried to do is create films with redemption. They have happy endings.” (Acosta, Cedars, 2021).

An arc of redemption summarises the long journey of Loop Track. As the movie ends, Ian walks down the road he drives up as the film begins. Stopping a passing car, he utters a single word, “Help.” For a person on the edge of the horror of a breakdown, asking for help is a perfect place to begin a walk toward redemption.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is the author of “First Expressions” (2019) and writes widely in theology and popular culture, including regularly at

Posted by steve at 09:02 AM

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