SEPTEMBER 27, 2009
The synopsis I read for Rough Cut was far more interesting than what the film was actually about, which is a shame as it took me a while to adjust to the difference. Basically, the one I read sounded like this guy had his wife killed in order to collect insurance money that he would use to fund the horror film he wanted to make. In reality, it’s about a guy who wanted out of his marriage, so he hired a buddy to kill his wife, and gave him some of the insurance money, which allowed the buddy to pay off the debt he had accrued while making a horror movie the year before.
Sure, they are similar, but since the husband (Brian Trimble) wasn’t directly involved with the movie anymore (he was originally slated to be the DP, but dropped out due to suffering from multiple sclerosis), the story isn’t really that much different than hundreds of other stories about guys hiring people to kill their wives, or vice versa. The horror movie stuff is played up, but it’s plain to see that it really had nothing to do with the guy’s decision to kill his wife. They even make a point to tell us that Trimble was the type of guy who wanted to be a doctor one week, then join the Air Force the next, and then be an architect the next (or something, I forget the exact examples), which suggests that working on a movie was one of many impulsive pipe dreams that he never really cared about and would forget about the instant another opportunity presented itself.
In the end, it comes down to the fact that the director of the horror movie (Blaine Norris) was just a disturbed guy who got in over his head making the film and resorted to drastic measures to climb out of debt (NOT make the movie - it was already made and its post production process was nearly complete). Since neither man took part in the making of the documentary, all we know about them is what we hear from family and friends. And on the “family” side of things, we only hear from the family of the deceased woman, so it’s not like they have many positive things to say about them. And the friends are largely the cast/crew from Norris’ film, so they are in an awkward position of knowing that they worked for a murderer but also probably pissed off that they spent all this time making a movie that will probably forever sit in the basement of a police station. A good true crime documentary gives you both sides of the story (Paradise Lost would be a great example; the sequel not so much), but this film never really explores Norris or Trimble beyond the basic fact that they conspired to kill Trimble’s wife. A Dateline report on the story refers to them as best friends - but there is nothing in Rough Cut to suggest they were any more than casual acquaintances (numerous clips from the Trimble wedding are shown, but I can’t recall seeing Norris in any of them).
That aside, it’s still an interesting and sad story. By all accounts, Randi Trimble was a wonderful woman who didn’t have a negative bone in her body, and the Fargo-esque “it was all for nothing” outcome is tragic on several levels. I mean this in no disrespectful way to the deceased, but the fact that the movie will never be released is a real shame, since documentarians Todd Klick and Sean Gaston try to draw parallels with the film to what really happened. For example, the characters’ names are something like Dan, Eric, Amanda, Ted, and Heather - the first letters of each name spell out DEATH (they go further with this - the killer’s name is Samuel, so it would be DEATHS - suggesting that Norris would have killed again had he not been caught, a claim that has zero evidence to support it). The official site for Rough Cut also has script excerpts that make similar parallels. However, we see precious little of the film’s production in the documentary, not even enough to tell what kind of horror movie it is (seems to be some sort of supernatural slasher). Even if it wasn’t truthful, it might have been interesting to see these parallels played out on screen.
In fact, you could probably remove the horror movie angle from the story entirely and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Norris proved to be a messed up guy with his other behavior, so it’s not like we needed to know he was also a failed filmmaker. For example, he actually planned out not only a detailed alibi (saved on his computer in a word doc, lol) that included the time he spent masturbating and watching Star Wars Episode II (sadly these are not related events), but he also theorized what sort of questions the police and prosecutor might ask him and prepared answers for those. We also eventually discover that he had filled out applications to be a state trooper. Simply telling us he was in debt due to a failed filmmaking enterprise would have been enough, everything else related to the filmmaking turns out to be superfluous, especially when you consider that the guy who put him up to it wasn’t even involved with the movie anymore (and hadn’t been for about eight months before the murder).
Speaking of Trimble, there is interesting stuff about him that never gets explored. Again, the Dateline article points out that he used some of the insurance money to buy a new plasma TV, telling the cops that it was something his wife wouldn’t let him buy. He also supposedly slept with his step-sister (?!?!?!) shortly after the murder, a fact that is mentioned once and never again. Christ, this is the only time it is even mentioned that he HAS a stepsister, so to bring this bit of wackiness up and never explore it just seems strange and makes the film seem unfocused.
Basically, I think the director heard “horror movie” and “murder” in the same news story and thought there was more to it than there really was, and had to try to tie the two together as much as possible to give the film a bit of a hook. By not providing us any real information about the two men’s relationship (they were co-workers - that’s about as much as we learn here), we’re left with what almost seems like two completely different stories (it takes until the 52 minute mark of the 81 minute film to even “reveal” that Norris was the one who killed Trimble’s wife - something that’s part of any plot synopsis). Interesting stories yes, but lacking the compelling nature of similar true crime docs like The Staircase (which has twists that best any horror movie) or again, Paradise Lost, which also did a far better job of exploring how police and prosecutors can use one’s passion for horror movies against them. Incidentally, one of the cops mentions that both men played Dungeons and Dragons - it seems that in itself would be more telling than the rather flimsy horror stuff, since they at least truly shared it in common.
The disc has a few OK extras. One is a rather touching piece about Randi, featuring stories from a few friends who are not in the film. There’s also a piece about Blaine Norris, which also gets into his psyche a bit more (but again, it was Trimble that we never got a grasp on, which is like doing a movie about Tonya Harding and focusing most of the film on Shane Stant). Then there is a brief Q&A session from the film’s Phoenix Film Festival premiere that you can skip.
Without knowing more about Trimble, or seeing the movie Norris made (he was 90% done with his cut when he was arrested), it’s hard to tell if the filmmakers did a lousy job telling the story or if there just wasn’t enough there for a full film on the matter. It’s an interesting and certainly tragic case - but it seems like the real interesting aspects of the story are glossed over in favor of attention grabbing “horror movie people are crazy” excuses. Wait for the book.
On a side note, I doubt Through Hike (awful title by the way) is any worse than half of the HMAD entries that got the “Crap” tag, and wouldn’t mind watching it if it ever gets released. At least I would know why the director didn’t provide a commentary track. I also have started wondering how many of said Crap films were directed by murderers. I’m sure at least one of the guys who made those Dark Harvest movies must have snapped by now.
What say you?