Experimental and uneven, Shortcut is one of those films that keeps hitting bumps just as
it reaches smoother roads. To be sure, the parts that work, really work, with some impressive cinematography by and characters that have a few quirks tucked away. However, at only an hour and a half, the movie is both too short, and too long. What we’re left with is a shell for a much better film.
Five classmates are on a bus with their endearing bus driver, Joseph (Terence Anderson).
When the normal route is obstructed, Joseph turns the wheel and heads down a different road with heavy fog, twisting woods, and the feeling of true isolation. There’s a very old-school vibe to this film. The music plays continuously, shuffling between lighter bonding music one might expect from Stranger Things and then quickly drilling harder when unfortunate things begin to happen. It’s not exactly the most accessible style but for a while, it still is unique.
The kids are likable enough, similar to the Losers Club with Nolan, the brave leader (Jack Kane), Karl, the one who’s always hungry (Zander Emlano), Reggie, the rebellious bad boy (Zac Sutcliffe), the nerdy but plucky girl Queenie (Molly Dew), and the artist Bess (Sophie Jane Oliver). A group of teens working together against monsters and deranged killers is a good premise. Add in a large series of tunnels and an abandoned military base and you’re in business. However, the scares fade away for flashbacks of exposition and bonding moments that could’ve been more serviceable.
And here’s part of the problem. Although similar to Jeepers Creepers 2 as many reviewers have noted, this one doesn’t focus on a large body count and heavy amounts of blood.
That in itself is fine and admirable. But the story didn’t really seem to balance two different antagonists that could easily each be part of their own movie. Nor does it really balance its flashbacks. A lot of it feels informative without actually enhancing the story we’re seeing to the point that I wish we were simply with the characters in their predicament. No cutaways or voice-overs; just letting their actions tell the story. That may’ve cut the run-time down to make this a TV pilot, but honestly, that could’ve worked a lot better.
That being said, when the teens are trapped in the moment, it really grabs ahold. As
mentioned before, the cinematography Luca Santagostino is outstanding and the creature stalking them is like a walking bat from hell. I found myself wanting to see more and more of the tunnels and ruins where the monster’s lair is. But for better or worse, it reached the ending it wanted. After starting with a lone red bus on a country road, it ends with characters who’ve been scared for life. It just isn’t as effective for the audience.
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