The Donner Party (2009 film)

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The Donner Party (2009)
The Donner Party.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerrence Martin
Produced byMark Costa
Ted Meyer
John Emerson Moore
Screenplay byTerrence Martin
StarringCrispin Glover
Clayne Crawford
Michele Santopietro
Mark Boone Junior
Christian Kane
Crispian Belfrage
Catherine Black
Jamie Anne Allman
Jack Kyle
Cary Wayne Moore
Alison Haislip
Mara LaFontaine
John A. Lorenz
Music byEimear Noone
CinematographySeamus Tierney
Edited byRichard Conkling
John Emerson Moore
Anacapa Entertainment
Distributed byFirst Look International
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Donner Party is a 2009 period drama film written and directed by Terrence Martin (credited as T.J. Martin), and starring Crispin Glover, Clayne Crawford, Michele Santopietro, Mark Boone Junior, and Christian Kane. It is based on the true story of the Donner Party, an 1840s westward traveling group of settlers headed for California. Becoming snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains, with food increasingly scarce, a small group calling themselves "The Forlorn Hope" turned to cannibalism. The Forlorn was the working title for the film.[1]


The film opens with text explaining who the Donner Party was and how they ended up in the terrible situation of passing the cutoff.



As well as being Martin's directorial debut, The Donner Party was production company Anacapa Entertainment's first feature film.[2] It premiered at the Austin Film Festival on October 23, 2009,[3] Its DVD release was three months later on January 26. Shooting was swift, with principal photography at the Donner Pass, California taking only 12 days.[4][5] Originally, the work had a higher budget, with greater use of child stars and a longer shooting schedule. However, the original production company pulled funding for the project, so several changes were made. The title change was a marketing choice by the distributor.[6]

The soundtrack was done by the Aspiro Choir under Mary Amond O'Brien.[citation needed]


Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD by First Look Pictures on January 26, 2010. It was later re-released by Millennium Entertainment on October 20, 2015 as a part of its 12 Movie Sci-Fi Pack.[7]


Dread Central awarded the film a score of three out of five, commending Glover and Boone Junior's performances, writing: "T.J. Martin's cinematic version of this dreadful episode in American history is carried off rather well although, as always seems to be the case with films based on historical events, a lot of what transpires in the film never happened, which IS annoying to history buffs like myself. At least the film was shot during the winter in the Donner Pass near Truckee, California, which helped with the verisimilitude."[8] Horror News.Net gave the film a positive review, writing, "Overall "The Donner Party" was a nice change from the hard core horror films that I usually watch. I have a feeling it will be shown in a lot of high school history classes in the future as there is really nothing offensive that would make it inappropriate for younger viewers. If you are in the mood for something a little different I suggest you give it a try. I also recommend that you have something to eat on hand while watching it as I was starving by the time I was done watching it. Then again, maybe I have issues."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Voeller, Carey R. (2009). "'A man is a fool who prefers poor California beef to human flesh': (Re)Definitions of Masculinity in Nineteenth-Century US Donner Party Literature". Western American Literature. 44 (3): 219.
  2. ^ "Production Begins on Anacapa Entertainment 'The Forlorn.'" Marketwire (press release). April 26, 2008. (via Lexis-Nexis)
  3. ^ Oh, Steph. "Austin Film Festival Line-Up Released". Austinist. September 25, 2009 (via Lexis-Nexis).
  4. ^ Brown, Jenn. "AFF Review: The Donner Party". Slackerwood. November 2, 2009. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
  5. ^ "The Donner Party". First Look Studios. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
  6. ^ Johnson, Kristin. "Director responds". February 8, 2010. Donner Blog. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  7. ^ "The Donner Party (2009) - T.J. Martin". AllMovie. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Donner Party, The (2009) - Dread Central". Dread thebellefromhell. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Film Review: The Donner Party (2009)". Horror News. Retrieved 1 November 2017.

External links[edit]