Is the easy way out also the best way out? It’s an age-old debate we often return to in difficult situations...
...Are you skipping a step and ending up at a sub-standard conclusion? Are you finding a way around a fallen tree on your creepy school bus route and somewhat inadvertently driving your passengers head-first into a creature’s lair? Are you a fellow writer for this website whose name rhymes with “flamey-blue” subjecting this reviewer to a level of psychological torment that’s making him question every decision he’s ever made involving field trips? If you’re answering yes to the latter: I’m on to you. If you’re answering yes to the former, you’re likely the bus driver from the movie Shortcut.
Shortcut (written by Daniele Cosci and directed by Alessio Liguori) starts off with a group of kids on a school bus on their way…somewhere…and nearly run into the age-old school-bus-stopping catastrophe: a fallen tree. Bus driver Joseph (Terence Anderson)—curiously the only character without an English accent—doesn’t let this stop his passengers from completing their trip, and instead takes a shortcut elsewhere. By “elsewhere”, I mean to the very spot where a serial killer on the loose takes them hostage at gun point, then on to the next destination: an old tunnel system inhabited by a mysterious creature. It all happens so fast.
Our protagonists are straight out of several movies we’ve all seen, filling in the tropes quite well, if conventionally. We have:
Fairly early in the movie—pre-serial killer hostage situation—we see Karl (“the fat kid”) in an interview, discussing the situation and mentioning the serial killer, who eats tongues, to interviewer Chris (Andrei Claude). At this point, we know either at least one of them survived, or there’s some serious Sixth Sense-type shit going on. Fast forward to the current hostage situation, the bus heads into a tunnel of sorts and, of course, is alone and has some engine trouble. Cue the creepy sounds, and then a courageous Joseph heads into the darkness and is met by a creature that isn’t a fan of him or any other human being. If you think you might be able to guess where the plot goes from here: you’d probably be correct.
This is a good time to discuss the concept of being “like” something versus being “influenced” by something. Shortcut is “like” a TON of different things, so much so, the analogy of “it would be like if this thing and this thing had a baby” describes the premise and story perfectly. And yes, of course I have examples:
Though this is nothing bad in practice, it definitely leads the rest of the movie to be predictable and somewhat unremarkable. Acting is done well enough, scenery and creature makeup are well enough, and there’s a cool montage scene where the kids uncover information on the creature and how to defeat it that left me slapping my forehead and groaning. There’s also, apparently, a way to preserve a near-perfect torch in an abandoned tunnel system for decades; this I want more info on.
It’s not all mediocre, however, when we focus on Luca Santagostino’s camera work and Liguori’s direction. The film is very high quality, things look great along with some wonderful scenery pre-tunnel system. A few scenes definitely stood out: one in particular in the tunnel where we have a slow tracking shot of the brick ceiling, slowly lowering to center in on the bus. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s very unconventional and gave an interesting perspective, especially in a genre where the norm seems to be quick-cuts and claustrophobic angles.
Shortcut manages to check every box in the “I know where this is going” box… game… which is a thing, I swear. It never really steps outside a creature feature-ish plot, with a ragtag group of kids finally stepping up to the challenge, but the camera work and direction keep things interesting enough to appeal to those who favor remarkable film visuals.
Shortcut comes to theaters and drive-ins from Gravitas Ventures September 25th, followed by a VOD/digital release on December 22nd.
By Zach Gorecki