REVIEW: The Shortcut

June 22, 2011

2009’s ‘The Shortcut‘ is currently available on Starz on Demand. I chose the flick out of lack of having anything horror to watch while being unable to sleep at 5 in the morning. I’d never heard of the film but thought “what the heck” when I read the description:

“A shortcut through the woods can sometimes mean a short life span – or that’s what the kids who pass by the supposedly haunted house with the scary old man think. Did he really kidnap children? These teens will find out!”

My interest was only piqued because it sounded fun, it was horror, and because I couldn’t find anything better. Not the best way to choose a movie to be sure and I wasn’t given much confidence from the name being unfamiliar to me, but in this case it worked out.

The setup in films like this is often long and boring, but not here. It was very well executed, in fact from beginning to end I didn’t find one thing I was put off by.

I was pleasently surprised to see several of the names involved in this film. In looking up the writers, director, and so on it’s clear this is a film by some rather new talent on the scene. Further more it looks like this is somehow part of the ‘Happy Madison’ Addam Sandler group (called “Scary Madison Productions” in this instance).

I was really glad to see Dave Franco in the film, I really like this guy, more than his older brother James in fact. I hope to see more from him and hopefully in horror. He did an excellent job acting, as did everyone else in the movie.

About the plot: It’s a basic story about a town legend of sorts; creepy shortcut through the woods by the elementarty school that takes you through the area by an equally creepy farm house owned by a notable family who’s lived there for generations but fell apart due to rumors about some bad stuff going on.

The movie is well layered showing us the present and main part of the story, but flashing back to the history of the family and what lead to some of these creepy “rumors”. It reminded me of my childhood and made me want to be a kid again doing stupid things like daring to go into some dark woods to see if a local legend was true or not. Then it made me glad I wasn’t a kid doing those things which is what makes this movie such great fun to me.

There is plenty of speculation room for the audience as the story unfolds allowing you to try to figure out where this all is going and giving you plenty of head fakes. Some things are shown at a glance then they make you forget about those things only to bring it around toward the end to give you those “oh yeah… they did show that” or “yeah, that’s what that meant” moments.

The movie is low on gore, but they don’t skimp on the suggestion of the horror behind the actions in the movie. This of course makes the film much more fun and suspenseful. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good presentation of blood and guts and horror fx as much as the next person, but in this case, it was done perfectly. Trust me.

I want to mention I really enjoyed the character dynamic interaction here. There was only mere suggestion of a cliquey kind of social set up where the kids were concerned but then it was completely just done away with as the main & supporting characters just went about doing their thing together. It gave me more of a sense of normalcy and pretty much none of the teen angst angles.

The story is clearly the important part here and next to that character development is quickly attended to in order to give the audience some sense of attachment to the protagonists and a well developed sense of dred one moment and a feeling of being mislead the next with the “bad guy”.

This would make for a great tale for the kiddies (w/ parental guidence of course) full of a quick adventure and some spooky fun or even as a campfire story to scare the little ones. I certainly have a couple stories like this to share with my daughter and at least one screenplay I wrote a rough draft of a couple years ago.

While the film left me wanting more, I was also left having a “full belly” by the time it was over. I didn’t feel like I’d missed out or that anything was lacking. I’d love to see a sequel along the same lines of this story but this is absolutely better off as a one off. Seeing more from ‘Scary Madison’ would be excellent though if this movie is any indication of the level of work they will put out.

The point is that this is a great, fun, movie that I’d recommend anyone check out. It brings some stuff back from childhood and is an example of what true fun horror is all about.


– Mr. Frights



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