Reminiscent of Jeepers Creepers (or, more specifically, its sequel, given the setting at hand) Shortcut is a teen-lite horror outing that pits a group of didn’t-know-they-were-resourceful teenagers against a creature following a vehicle breakdown in the middle of the woods – because, of course that’s what’s going to happen.
After initially choosing a shortcut due to a downed tree in the middle of the road, likeable bus driver Joseph (Terence Anderson) comes to another stand-still thanks to a deceased deer in his pathway. Doing what every sensible driver does he acts promptly to remove it, only problem is there’s a gun-toting psychopath lurking nearby who takes poor Joseph hostage. This would be traumatic enough for the quintet of teens on board (Jack Kane, Zak Sutcliffe, Sophie Jane Oliver, Zander Emlano, and Molly Due) if it weren’t for the mysterious, hungry creature that inhabits the neighbouring tunnels and subsequently seeks out our teens for its own appetite.
From here on Shortcut caters to the survivalist horror sensibilities, keeping the creature mostly at bay (a wise choice as it’s infinitely more terrifying leaving it more a mystery) whilst the teens simultaneously figure out their escape and come to accept each other on a more personal level. It’s typically a film that asks us to suspend our disbelief – and not just cause there’s a mythical creature on hand – with the underground compound that most of the film takes place in always throwing an obstacle to overcome when it’s narratively convenient, but it manages to mostly overcome this as it maintains a constant momentum throughout.
One of Shortcut‘s strongest assets though is in its portrayal of its lead teenagers, with the age-appropriate performers believably embodying the at-times fearful, others fearless mentality that immortal-minded teens often have. However, the flip-side to that is that they easily convey the grating qualities teenagers can have too, with one particular character (Emlano’s Karl) particularly insufferable as they beatbox and simulate drumming on nearby objects to the point of far over-staying their welcome; also, if you’re hiding out from a hungry creature, do you really want to draw attention to your whereabouts?
Whilst it manages to alarm and offers up a decent amount of blood splatter, the teen-heavy mind-frame Shortcut adopts suggests this is more a film for a teenage audience, and certainly they need their horror fix too without being subjected to the thematically heavy genre pieces we’ve been blessed with as of late. If you’re expecting something truly adult and unnerving, Shortcut is unlikely to do the trick, but as a creature feature that values character over carnage, it’s a worthy venture.
Shortcut is playing at select drive-in theatres across the US from September 25th. An Australian release is yet to be determined.