SHORTCUT hits all the marks for a future cult classic survival horror, an underappreciated sub-genre. Shows like The Walking Dead and super-success films like Us and A Quiet Place remind the general public that the survival horror genre exists outside of the video game world, and for good reason. SHORTCUT jumps on that train (or bus, more accurately) by putting a half dozen people in the middle of a survivalist nightmare when they get ambushed by a psycho. You’d think being held at gunpoint would be enough, but it turns out something worse than a crazy guy with a gun lays in wait when their bus breaks down in a tunnel and they’re faced with ravenous creatures waiting to tear into them. It’s up to them to stay alive, but their chances decrease with each passing moment.
Five great “kids” come together to make a ragtag gang of survivors–each with their own series of quirks, shortcomings, and strengths. Karl (Zander Emlano) is my favorite of the bunch, with his constant beatboxing and air drumming. His strength and bravery, coming from his heavier frame and boyish face, is a typical trope but delightful nonetheless. His counterpart, Queenie (Molly Dew) is equally delightful–sweet, smart, resourceful and strong. It’s easy to compare each of the kids to their typical horror character archetype, but that doesn’t make them any less charming. In fact, there’s a special charm and comfort to a film that hits all the plot points and character notes you’d expect–particularly in horror. I’m all for innovation, but now and then it’s a real treat to see something a little more “typical.” Predictability can work for the positive and help to forgive flaws and mistakes that arise along the way.
SHORTCUT follows in the footsteps of horror greats by lighting and shooting the creatures incredibly mindfully. Nothing is too exposed, and the glimpses of the creatures are perfectly disturbing without giving too much away. It’s the perfect example of not showing too much, and leaving something to the imagination–one of the oldest tricks in the book, that’s so often overlooked. The creatures are created by Makinarium, a hybrid practical and virtual effects company based in Italy, with a foothold in the UK. Their hyper realistic creatures, props, and effects are worth looking for, even if SHORTCUT doesn’t make it on to your radar (which I hope it will).
A few trips and falls along the way don’t necessarily stop SHORTCUT from being a success. A foray into an overly involved backstory, for example, left me itching to get back to our teens and their tribulations. Odd story holes and complexities make what’s already a high stakes concept seem impossible–and at a certain point it’s much less fun to watch obstacle after obstacle instead of seeing our protagonists’ success. The constant changing threats (with little regard for rules) get a bit tiring. However, in the end, SHORTCUT remains a blend of all the things I love to see in horror – a little bit of fun, a lot of scares, and more heart than you could ever expect. I can see SHORTCUT making a permanent mark on the horror community, and hopefully reminding us just how much fun we can have watching and cheering for our heroes to survive.
SHORTCUT releases in the US on September 25th, 2020.
6 out of 10