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  Shortcut Bus Of Terror!
Year: 2020
Director: Alessio Liguori
Stars: Jack Kane, Zander Emlano, Zak Sutcliffe, Sophie Jane Oliver, Molly Dew, David Keyes, Terence Anderson, Andrei Claude, Mino Caprio, Teo Achille Caprio, Emma Giua, Matteo De Grigori
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: These five English teenagers are on a bus travelling through the countryside, watching the scenery go by as they amuse themselves as best they can on the journey, exchanging banter, doodling, watching the landscape go by and so on until they reach a forest. The driver, Joseph (Terence Anderson) knows where he is going, so when an obstacle of an apparently fallen tree appears in the road up ahead, blocking their path, he does know of a shortcut back to their planned route. However, on that new route he is stopped once again by a dead animal blocking this time and gets out of the bus to drag it out of the way. But someone has placed it there deliberately - someone evil and with murder on his mind.

Shortcut was a throwback to those Italian horror movies of the nineteen-seventies and eighties where their industry attempted to emulate big hits from the United States by basically producing rip-offs. Not only American films were prone to this, as anyone who has seen a facsimile of Australia's Mad Max 2 will attest, but the Italians had a certain way with this material that went both more extreme in places, definitely trashier, yet somehow unintentionally camp and even naff. During their heyday their genre filmmakers were like nobody else in the world, and picked up an international cult following in some quarters, though few were going to choose to watch one of their copies over one of those originals they were so utterly inspired by.

Which brought us to this little item, benefitting from some attractive and/or atmospheric locations and appealing photography, but saddled with amateurism in other areas - the performing from the teens was somewhat "school play". Shortcut did come across as probably seeming better if it had been dubbed into Italian which would paper over the cracks of some game but not exactly accomplished acting from most of the cast; the kids were not unpromising, but you were never convinced you were watching anything authentic, and that was taking account of the fantastical situation they found themselves trapped in. Also, you could tell that since they were pretty young, there was not a desire in the film to be so heartless as to allow them to fall victim to the inevitable monster that's lurking in the darkness, so despite a little injury it was more a team-building exercise as horror movie than anything convincing as a threat.

They did swear a lot, though, as if to make up for the lack of truly crunchy horror, and as the sole black gentleman in the cast, inexplicably American Anderson was earmarked as not going to last too long, as there were some cliches the Italians were reluctant to let go of. The menace who has left the carcase in the road is a serial killer, so you had to conjure with the chances of there being a murderous psychopath in the woods as well as a monster, all so the viewer would not make allusions to Jeepers Creepers 2, which also featured a bus full of youngsters attacked by a creature but did not feature a serial killer. Unless you counted the creature as one. Anyway, though this was an eccentric choice of influence given the American sequel director's criminal convictions, nevertheless he was more scary than Shortcut, which burbled along like a kids' TV show with bad language to prove to itself it was fit for adults, though you imagine teens would get most out of it. It was a bit silly, but had energy and was by no means the worst Italian movie you'd ever see. Music by Benjamin Kwasi Burrell.

[Shortcut will be available on Digital Download from 29th March.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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