OCTOBER 15, 2009
As with Prom Night, I can’t knock on a PG-13 horror movie for being aimed at teens. So keeping that in mind, I will say that The Shortcut could be a lot worse, and any older horror fan that bitches about its very existence really should focus on getting a life or writing an original R rated horror movie him or herself. Christ, the front cover practically BOASTS that it’s PG-13, so I’m not sure how they could make it any clearer that the film is not aimed at anyone old enough to vote.
That said, it’s still reasonably entertaining. One thing I particularly liked is that the kids exist in the real world, so when they talk about bands or games, they are real bands and games. Some of the name-checked bands don’t quite gel (our hero asks his would-be girlfriend if she likes Nine Inch Nails, and then if she likes Schwayze. Which is like asking if someone likes apples or plywood), but it’s still better than the generic-ness we usually have to deal with. I do take issue with an 8 year old’s claim that he got a triple kill with a Spartan laser on Halo. BULLSHIT. Unless you scored a direct hit on an already weakened team on an already weakened Warthog, that is totally impossible. Especially if you’re an 8 year old n00b.
(I will neither confirm nor deny that my anger at this dialogue is the result of my having been killed several times by 8 year olds).
And for a PG-13 movie, it doesn’t skimp on the body count. Pretty much all of our kids are killed off (often with sledgehammers!), and while it’s not gory or anything, it’s at least harsh. I honestly expected we were going to get some Scooby-Doo bullshit where it was all a big misunderstanding, or maybe that they would pull a Cry_Wolf and have any deaths be faked, but nope. Shortcut High is going to have a half dozen less students at its graduation.
It’s also got a largely competent cast. Drew Seeley is an enjoyable lead, and as far as I’m concerned you can’t do much better than to cast Katrina Bowden as the eye candy. Plus, our bad guys are played by Raymond Barry (which is I think the first horror appearance of this legendary hardass character actor) and William B. Davis, aka the Cigarette Smoking Man. I was also charmed by Shannon Woodward as the hero’s best female friend. They also actually seem like actual teenagers, which is a big plus. We’ve come a long way from the days of 90210 (original), when even the younger cast members were still about 10 years older than the roles they were playing.
The technical aspects could use some improvement though, particularly the audio. It’s rare I have heard so many obvious ADR and insert lines in a single film. Most blatant is a shoehorned line where a guy says for almost no reason “You moved here two months ago and you’re quitting?” What would his moving have to do with quitting a team he didn’t like? Oh, we need to beat home the idea that he’s new to town, in order to pay off the ending.
I won’t spoil the ending, but again - this is a pretty harsh PG-13 movie. Apparently it was written as an R and changed right before filming began (better than changing it after at least), and even then they still had to trim some stuff to make the rating. My question is, since the film went DTV, why not just do the unrated cut? It’s not like there are any restrictions over Netflix or whatever.
Director Nicholaus Goossen talks at length about the ratings issues (it’s pretty obvious he wasn’t thrilled with the change), as well as shooting on a low budget. He’s also particularly fascinated by pickup shots that were done in Los Angeles (the film proper was shot in Regina, Canada, same as Grace); roughly 1/3 of the track is him saying things like “OK here she is walking down the road in Canada.... and she picks up the stick in Los Angeles!”. I’ve long since lost my sense of wonder for movie magic occurrences like this, but it’s cute that Goossen is still amazed by it. He also frequently points out family members of executive producer Adam Sandler that I’m sure just happened to be really good actors and beat out other actors for their roles based on talent alone.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating - I wish I had PG-13 horror movies back when I was a kid. Not that I couldn’t access the R ones, but none of my friends at school could, and thus I’d have no one to talk about the newest Freddy or Jason movie with. At least if we had stuff like this, my friends’ more conservative parents would let them watch, since they were “safer” than their R counterparts. So, fellow adults - don’t knock PG-13 movies for being PG-13; in the end they’re often no better or worse than the R rated movies aimed at us.
What say you?