Jack: I don't know. Could be anything. This forest is old. Very old. [beat.] Old as balls.
An Indie Science Fiction film shot on a budget too small to afford shoestrings.
Introverted Oliver is going on a camping trip with an old friend, his new friends, and his old friend's new friends. As tensions rise, young love blossoms, old wounds open and hormonal teenage egos clash, a mysterious creature begins picking off the campers one by one.
The film takes the structure and premise of a Slasher Movie and combines them with the emotional depth and character development of something like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, focusing more on the relationships between the characters and their realistic reactions to the deaths of their friends than reveling in violence. Along the way, various science fiction tropes are parodied and lampshaded, all of which is injected with a heavy dose of pitch Black Comedy.
The film was shot over the course of three years on a budget of less than a thousand dollars. Despite this, it achieves impressive production values and has been praised for its realistic teenage dialogue and humor.
Can be watched in its entirety for free here.
Steps Trodden Black contains the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Emma carries around a switchblade and benches more than Fletcher. Her first reaction upon seeing the Space Cat is to attack it with a hatchet. It doesn't go well for her.
- After-Action Healing Drama: The third act of the movie takes place after the monster has already been beaten. The drama comes from trying to save the people it already killed.
- Aliens Speaking English: Referenced. The whole galaxy switched to English because they knew English speakers would never learn a second language.
- Artificial Limbs: Jinx has what looks like a robot hand in the stinger.
- Asshole Victim: Averted. The first to die is the Lovable Jock Ryan, followed Jerk with a Heart of Gold Alex (although whether or not he's an asshole is up for debate), Action Girl Emma and waifish Sam. Fletcher, who arguably displays the most assholish behavior in the film survives the whole ordeal.
- Audible Sharpness: The creature's claws makes a slicing noise every time they're brandished.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Despite the two bickering for the first half of the movie, Alex is genuinely worried when Jack's whereabouts are unknown.
- Bathos: A troubled teenager tries to accept himself and deal with the constant feeling of isolation and overwhelming anxiety when interacting with others, while his friends are picked off by a violent force and they try to hold the group together and keep it from falling apart into arguing while at the same time dealing with the shock and grief over the deaths of their friends. Its also a comedy with laser guns, aliens and a space ship.
- Big Damn Heroes: Right when the creature is closing in on Fletcher and Sam, Jack and Oliver burst out of the forest with laser guns.
- Big Damn Kiss: After risking his life to bring her back to life Jack gets one with Sam.
- Black Comedy: Most of the jokes in the film, the source of which is usually Alex. The fact that the carnage is played straight for everyone else only makes it funnier.
- Bland-Name Product: Alex buys energy drinks which are named Hurricane Handjob and Cocaine Tears.
- Bottomless Magazines: Meddler fires 22 shots without reloading from a gun that should only hold about 15 rounds. Then again, he is from space, and it likely isn't your average human pistol.
- Brick Joke: When transporting Ryan's body, his head gets whacked against the side of the bathroom stall. When he's later brought back to life, his head hurts.
- When running through the woods, Jack suggests that the monster is probably more afraid of them than they are of it. Later, after Meddler puts it down, Jinx muses that it was probably more afraid of them than they were of it. Oliver is not amused.
- Camping a Crapper: The first kill of the movie happens while the victim is on the toilet.
- Casanova Wannabe: Alex describes himself as ridiculously attractive and his first action upon arriving at the campsite is to hit on Emma. She threatens him with a knife.
- Chekhov's Gun: Ryan's phone falling out of his pocket and Oliver picking it up is given a lot of attention. The creature later uses the phone to pick up Oliver's scent.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Jack's an overly friendly but likable weirdo.
- Complete-the-Quote Title: The title is paraphrased from a Robert Frost poem.And both that morning equally lay,
in leaves no step had trodden black,
Oh! I kept the first for another day,
But knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Sam dies in Jack's arms.
- Epigraph: The film opens with the Robert Frost excerpt above.
- Extra Eyes: Jinx has four eyes in his alien form.
- Evil Phone: We get a long scary push in on Ryan's phone before Oliver picks it up.
- Finger-Twitching Revival: This signals the monster is waking back up.
- First Contact: Referenced by Meddler. Apparently, aliens made contact with the government back in the sixties, which is why their tech uses English.
- Genre-Busting: A sci-fi horror teen drama comedy.
- Gentle Giant: Ryan is one of the nicest characters in the group, and has about a hundred pounds of muscle on everyone else.
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: A rare male example, Meddler in the stinger.
- Gory Discretion Shot: For such a high body count, the onscreen violence is kept to a minimum. Most deaths happen off camera, and we only briefly see the aftermath.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Jack risks his life to save Sam, with only a small chance of either of them surviving. They both live.
- Humanoid Aliens: The creature is humanoid shaped, although its behavior is animalistic. Jinx and Medler fit turn out to fit this trope more accurately.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Parodied. Jack suggests that maybe the monster is more afraid of them than they are of it, despite it actively stalking them and killing their friends unprovoked.
- Klatchian Coffee: Implied with the energy drinks Alex buys. With names like Hurricane Handjob and Cocaine Tears, what else would they be?
- Latex Perfection: Jinx and Meddler's human disguises.
- Lovable Jock: Ryan, to a T.
- The Men in Black: Jinx and Meddler seem to check all the boxes, being mysterious guys in dark suits who show up in response to an alien threat.Oliver: So what are you guys, like the men in black or something?
Jinx: No! [looks down at his black suit] Well I suppose, technically.
- More Dakka: Apparently Meddler's philosophy.
- Mortal Wound Reveal: Sam thinks Jack is bleeding out after a scuffle with the Space Cat. It turns out to be her blood.
- Nerd Glasses: The nonconfrontational, introverted Oliver sports a pair of thick rimmed glasses.
- No Sympathy: Played for dark laughs with Alex. He feels no remorse over hurting Ryan's feelings, and has practically no reaction to Ryan's death and Fletcher's reaction to it. Later on, he's much nicer to Oliver, staying up with him to keep watch and listening to his personal problems, although he's still blunt and arrogant.
- Offscreen Teleportation: The creature exhibits this ability a few times, the first in the bathroom, apparently climbing into the stall in the span of a few seconds without making noise or alerting its occupant, and the second at the campsite, having already killed Alex in the short time Jack and Oliver were turned around.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Oliver is a meek, mild mannered, introverted Nice Guy, so when he loses it and starts screaming at Meddler and dares him to kill him, you know he means business.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Jack tells Sam he likes her, then awkwardly stutters and backtracks, worried he made things weird. She shuts him up with one of these.
- Take That!: One is leveled at English speakers for their inability to speak a second language.Meddler: See, the E.T.s were planning to teach humans their language, but they realized English speakers would never learn a second language and it would be much easier if the whole galaxy just switched to English.
- The Stinger: After the initial credits, Jinx and Meddler repair the crashed space ship and remove human masks, revealing themselves to be aliens.
- There's No Kill Like Overkill: Meddler empties twenty rounds into the creature. Then two more, just in case.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Fletcher empties the contents of his stomach after finding Ryan dead in the bathroom. It is shown in disgusting detail. Jack throws up after being brought back to life.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: All other vomiting in the film occurs offscreen.
- We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: While the tech is apparently from space, and not the future, Jinx and Meddler manage to bring people who had their throats slit and all their blood drained from their bodies (some of whom have been dead for hours) back to perfect health, as well as fix serious internal organ damage and restart everyone's hearts.
- Wham Shot: The crashed alien spaceship, implying that the creature that's been hunting them is not of this world.
- Jinx and Meddler pulling their faces off, revealing themselves to be aliens in the stinger.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Alex knows that checking out a funny noise in a horror movie is a dumb idea. Unfortunately for him, its not that kind of horror movie.
- Zeerust: The design of the laser guns and space ship are intentionally very 1970s.