Shortcut (2020)

I admit that I was a bit hesitant during “Shortcut” as it seems to meander back and forth between time lines and whatnot. However, during the final half, Alessio Liguori’s “Shortcut” finds a path and sticks to it, offering a horror movie with great substance. “Shortcut” is a mix of It Chapter One” and “Jeepers Creepers 2” (sans the uh… uncomfortable pedo overtones) and really sucked me in as a creepy, weird, and engaging tale of coming of age in the face of a dark force on a deserted highway.

Five classmates are on the road traveling back to their school when they happen upon mysterious road blocks that require them to take a path off road. After being stranded, they’re taken hostage by a gun wielding maniac who intends to kidnap the lot. But things go from bad to worse when the road goes pitch black. Soon the group is being terrorized by a carnivorous bug eyed monster lurking outside the bus. Now they have to figure out how to survive until day light or become its prey.

Director Alessio Liguori’s “Shortcut” is a very good horror thriller that daringly dabbles in to some instances of folklore and fantasy for good measure. For some, this tonal shift might seem a bit jarring, but I have to admit that I was with it until the very end. Daniele Cosci’s script gives us a clear view of the legacy of this horrendous monster, while also keeping us firmly in the dark on exactly what it is, and what exactly it wants. The monster design is absolutely fantastic as the director keeps us guessing consistently, revealing bits and pieces of its design for us. It’s certainly a fascinating boogeyman who takes great pains to devour its prey and it amounts to some genuinely terrifying scenes on and off the bus.

The collective cast of Jack Kane, Zak Sutcliffe, Andrei Claude, Sophie Jane Oliver, and Terence Anderson are very good in their roles, portraying often complex and empathetic protagonists we have no trouble rooting for. Even the more unlikable of the group eventually win us over, as the script delves deeper in to their home lives during their struggle to survive, allowing us to connect to them. One thing that never clicked for me was the weird hallucinations the characters endured during certain points. Why was it happening? Were they induced by the monster? Were they manifestations of their worst fears? And why did everything need to be connected in one big narrative rather than simply alluding to fate?

What big role did the flashback to the past protagonist play beyond a big exposition dump? What role did the announced big eclipse play in the narrative? And if the climax alludes to what it alludes to, why does the group seemingly face off against only one being? Despite its inherent flaws, ‘Shortcut” is a solid horror film filled with great tension, a unique narrative, and a monster that’s teeming with potential for more films centered on it wreaking havoc on hapless travelers.

In theaters with a traditional 90-day window on September 25th, until its digital release on Dec. 22nd.