Shortcut manages to build tension and give some decent performances along the way, yet becomes very misguided when struggling to locate its target audience.
Written by Becca Johnson
This new indie horror movie from director Alessio Liguori, tells the story of five British teenagers who become trapped inside their school-bus after it gets taken over by a madman with a gun. To make things worse and wildly scarier, the road in front of them becomes invaded by a terrifying creature.
The performances from the young cast were pretty hit or miss. The group of teens managed to convey angst and genuine horror really well, managing to invoke fear unto the audience with their screams of terror and horrified facial expressions. However, the acting was pretty shoddy during conversations between them, creating interactions that failed to seem believable. The best performance came from David Keyes, who played the fear-inducing Pedro Minghella, the man-with-gun who invades the school-bus. Though the performances mostly managed to impress, the characters were simply not interesting to follow. They frequently made poor decisions, and apart from one or two conversations here and there about their parents, we know next to nothing about them.
The movie did a good job with injecting some horror into the mix. The claustrophobia can definitely be felt by the audience, as the characters go from being trapped on a school-bus to winding their way round dark and dingy tunnels. There was a lot of tension built during the first act, as the movie chooses not to show us the creature's face straight away, giving us only character reactions and descriptions to go by. The creature design may not be the most terrifying or well-made, yet by the time we get to see what we'll be facing, it's hard not to grimace. This is where the decent acting comes into play, as the terror of the characters pushes the audience to feel that same terror. The musical score was well made, giving a nostalgic vibe as it leans towards the 80's horror movie sound, however it was sometimes over-powering, taking away from the dialogue and making it hard to hear.
The horror is also where the movie hits its biggest issue; it doesn't know which audience to steer towards as its target. Shortcut is much too tame for adults, not being gory or scary enough to invoke true fear. However, the foul language and violence comes across as a little too excessive for a younger audience, resulting in the movie feeling ultimately lost. The plot also tries to do too much, adding to this overall lack of cohesion. The script adds lunar eclipses into the mix but doesn't give it enough development to add to the wider plot, as well as adding flash-backs that feel out of place and stories from characters that fail to tell us anything interesting about them. If the script focused on the horror more directly and took out a couple of the above, it might've achieved its goal more successfully.
In summary, Shortcut is a horror movie that shows much potential and promise. It uses techniques such as tension building and visual effects to create a spooky experience. However, its hard to tell who this movie is for, as its too much for a young audience yet not enough for an older audience. The characters weren't that easy to root for as the audience doesn't learn enough about them, ultimately ending in an emotionless experience.