“Some urban legends are real.”
A.k.a. Avoid the Shortcut (UK)
Director: Nicholaus Goossen / Writers: Dan Hannon & Scott Sandler / Cast: Drew Seeley, Shannon Woodward, Katrina Bowden, Dave Franco, Josh Emmerson, Raymond Barry, William B. Davies, Kent Allen, Nicholas Elia.
Body Count: 9
Believe it or not, Adam Sandler is the exec producer on this DVD flick, which comes from the horror arm (Scary Madison) of his production company (Happy Madison).
Nicely made and acted but totally uninvolving and virtually bloodless, this PG-13 quickie begins at Homecoming 1945, where, in the usual small town Americana, a couple of teen sweethearts go into the woods where rape is attempted and the girl, at least, is confronted and catapulted to death by a loitering kid.
The scene is instantly problematic: The male teen-slash-rapist is “being shipped off to Germany” to fight the Nazis, despite the fact World War II had completely ended by mid-1945 and, unless I’m wrong, Homecoming occurs around September… Does he die? Shrug. It’s elided completely, leaving the poor female victim to suffer both his aggression and then also be killed by the psycho-kid.
Things fortunately improve for the next hour, as new-kid-in-town Derek (Seeley) is made aware of ‘The Shortcut’, a through-private-land forest route where kids have been disappearing on and off for years. After his little brother Tobey takes the dare to go through and encounters a mad old man and a slain dog, Derek finds himself recruited by school jock Taylor, whose dog has been missing for three days.
A trip to ‘The Hartley Farm’ in the middle of the forest proves that the old man is certainly not operating with a full deck and Taylor is convinced his dog has been killed. He, Derek, friends Mark and Lisa, and object-of-lust Christy, opt to carry out a little surveillance and break into the property to fetch proof.
Instead, they find another old man shackled inside the house and foolishly try to set him free, unleashing more horror on themselves.
The Shortcut eventually shunts into action-gear in the last 20-25 minutes, once the bloodless killing begins and the teens go on the run. It’s over all too quickly before an obnoxious, contrived beyond palpable acceptance of the human mind, twist is thrown from the outer field. It sucks, is treated as a joke and robbed the film of an affable two-and-a-half-star rating.
In the slim ‘for’ column, the cast are good and the characters not revolting teens of the kill-them-now persuasion for a change, but it’s just so one dimensional plotwise, for which the only antidote is to make sure the scary parts are genuinely scary – and here they’re not. A mangled hand is about as grisly as the violence gets, everything else is either off camera or claret-free.
About the only scary prospect The Shortcut had was the possibility Adam Sandler might be in it, but Jack & Jill was far more terrifying.
Blurb-of-interest: Katrina Bowden was in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil the following year.