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Film Review: “Shortcut” Is a Fun, Engaging Creature Feature, but Nothing We Haven’t Seen Before

Written by: Matt Patti | September 24th, 2020

Film poster: “Shortcut”

Shortcut (Alessio Liguori, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.

I find that most horror/thriller films I’ve seen, especially recently, turn out to not be what I expected going in. Some fall into the category of being better than I expected, some have twists that make the film different than I expected but still good, and others unfortunately do not live up to my expectations and are different in a negative way. However, there are some horror films, especially older ones, that play out almost exactly as I expected. Although some may say predictability is a negative aspect of film, I think that there are some instances where getting precisely what you’re bargaining for from a film is a good thing. Such is the case with director Alessio Liguori’s Shortcut. The film is not too predictable, and there are certainly some surprises, but for the most part I came out of the film with the same thoughts that I went into the film with: the expectations of a fun and suspenseful creature-feature adventure with interesting young characters. The film surely fulfills those expectations, with little in addition, but few disappointing aspects, as well.  

Shortcut begins with five classmates on a school bus. When the bus stumbles upon a part of the road that is blocked by a fallen tree, the driver decides to take an alternate path through the woods. Along this alternate path the bus enters into a tunnel, where it unfortunately breaks down, trapping the students and driver. They soon notice something in the middle of the road, blocking the bus’s path. Upon further inspection, the driver finds that the obstacle is a strange creature, the likes of which he has never seen before. The creature begins to attack the bus, and the driver and students find themselves in a fight for survival against something that they don’t understand.

Still from SHORTCUT ©Gravitas Ventures

The film succeeds in telling an intriguing and entertaining story, even if it is a bit familiar. The dynamic between the classmates on the bus is done very well. Each character is uniquely different and interacts differently with each other. There is no standout performance and I’d argue there isn’t even a main character, but everyone works well with each other and with good chemistry to create an interesting dynamic between them all. The assortment of characters is a typical one: there’s the jokester, Karl; the smart girl, Queenie; the bad boy, Reggie; the brave boy, Nolan; and the pretty girl, Bess. Even though these are typical and there is no character that really stands out, each is played well.

The plot is one that’s reminiscent of many films involving a group of kids taking on a dangerous creature, such as It  and Super 8. But, again, even though this is the case, it is still enjoyable to watch. Shortcut’s fast-paced first half, in which the kids discover the creature, is the highlight of the film, but even when it slows down in its second half there are still interesting character moments and creepy suspenseful scenes that keep the viewer interested. The creature, itself, is an interesting one, in terms of the look and its abilities.

Zander Emlano as Karl in SHORTCUT ©Gravitas Ventures

The creature looks best near the beginning of the film, when it is shrouded in darkness and the viewer can only see parts of it. However, when it is presented fully in the frame in full light, it does come off as a bit cheap and looks somewhat like a Halloween costume. The design for the creature’s face is very well done, but the rest of its body looks cheesy and fake. Perhaps if the filmmakers left it in darkness and never showed the full figure of the creature this would not be a problem.

The end of the film does become a bit convoluted and overloaded with unnecessary discoveries. This makes the film drag on a bit more than it needs to and leads to uneven pacing. However, disregarding those unnecessary scenes, most of the film flows well. The characters are likeable and different enough to carry the film even when nothing is happening, and the creature is creepy enough (especially when not shown in full) to present a real sense of danger and mystique. Overall, Shortcut gives the viewer what they can expect from a film like this while also adding in a few unique aspects.

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Matt Patti is a Stevenson University alumnus who graduated with a degree in Film & Moving Image, with a concentration in producing and writing and a minor in communication. He has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films since a very young age. Matt has recently moved to the Baltimore area and currently works full-time as a Video Production Assistant. He also enjoys creating short films with Baltimore-area friends to enter into contests as well as purely for the love of the craft.

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