It is the Christmas holidays starting tomorrow, and this student (Emily Blunt) is getting through her last philosophy exam before the campus breaks up knowing she does not have a flight home to Delaware tonight and will have to make alternative arrangements. Casting an eye over the bulletin board, she sees a note offering anyone who wants one, a lift to Delaware and is relieved at an apparent Godsend, so calls up the guy (Ashton Holmes) and asks if he can give her a lift. It's a journey of a few hours, but they should be able to make it before the weather really gets bad and the night has drawn in, yet their rapport is somewhat lacking once the journey gets underway...
This is down to the girl wanting to talk on her phone rather than keep the guy company - nobody in this film is given a name, incidentally - and when he starts to sulk she reluctantly attempts to make conversation and begins to doubt his motives for taking her along. Could he in fact be a creep? And a creep with an ulterior motive, at that? How come he manages to know so much about her, but not very much about Delaware which is supposed to be his home? Don't get too bogged down in this ostensible, psychological thriller plot, however, as about half an hour in the filmmakers lost interest and turned it into something else instead: a snowbound ghost story with a strange twist.
Not to give anything away, but it had a go at applying Nietzschean philosophy to the concept of ghosts to variable effect, as essentially it meant the characters would reach a crisis in the plot where it seemed there was no way of getting out of the situation, then the script would reset the narrative to an earlier point and they had to take a different path. Not quite like series television would reset their episodes, more like a computer game where you have lost your life and have to start again from a different stage where you would, theoretically, learn from your previous mistakes and perform the tasks better, with a view to getting past this level. Except here there was but one level.
Well, sort of. Nietzsche came into it through positing that we can live our lives over and over, completely - or only vaguely - aware that we have been this way before, potentially countless times, which is why we occasionally experience déjà vu. We think we have seen this before because, in effect, we have. All very deep, but applying it to a horror movie had mixed results, as the parameters of the reality this was dealing with were not exactly clear; certainly there was worth in sustaining an air of mystery, but when a lot of what happened came across as less ingeniously worked out and more arbitrary, not being able to get a handle on what was happening to the girl and the guy could prove testing, especially after the opening act set out a different film than the one we eventually had.
Basically, this was the old stranded miles from anywhere storyline given spooky trappings, which can succeed in the right hands, though the sense they were trying to be a shade too clever for their own good was hard to escape, as hard as the accident and its aftermath are to escape. Yes, the girl and the guy crash the car, though we are not given a clear enough motive for the guy to drive down that isolated road when the snow is getting thicker other than it gets the pair in the right spot for them to experience the weird time shenanigans that unfold over the following hour. It was that kind of project, a lot of convenient elements that had not quite been thought through. But not to be too down on it, it did arrive at a time when horror was mired in torture porn and transitioning to spooky scares, and did feel like a film on the cusp, something the team of Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney and director Gregory Jacobs (Soderbergh's usual assistant director) could legitimately be said to have identified a gap in the market even if it didn't make many waves at the time. Music by Clint Mansell (also exploring the sinister side of Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree).