Most horror films aren’t that twisty… We generally know who the killer is, who they’re going to target, and who will likely survive. It’s not rocket science, and many of us horror geeks like it that way. Then again, we also seem to love it just as much when a sneaky filmmaker plays with our expectations and stereotypes – giving us something we never quite expected. Shuttle – a little indie that could from 2008 – is just such a picture.
It starts with a simple premise: two attractive, college-age(ish) girls return on a red-eye flight from their Spring Break trip to Mexico and catch a shuttle-bus at a random coastal airport to take them to their parked car(s). Unfortunately for them, the driver of the bus (pitch-perfect Tony Curran) has different plans – and takes Mel (Peyton List), Jules (Cameron Goodman), and a handful of other passengers along on a very dangerous ride.
A big benefit is that the characters in Shuttle feel like real people. While everyone appears to be stereotypical at the outset (horny young man, sexually aggressive young woman, whimpering business man, etc.) – each have layers that begin to show as the tale moves forward. In particular, Peyton List is engaging as Hell – and very much one of those rare, laudable female characters in a horror film. Her Mel is no Damsel in Distress – even when things seem impossible she is constantly plotting another way out of the situation, all other characters (including the men) look up to her and respect her.
What is fun about the film is that it is never what you expect. The viewer’s understanding of the motivations of certain players changes as the film moves along: Is the shuttle driver a madman, or is there something more sinister and unsettling going on? Every time the film lets the viewer think they have a handle on what’s really at play here, it changes gears and becomes something a little bit different and darker. All of the unusual storytelling leads toward a completely unexpected and unsettling finale – one that lands a fairly heavy – and timely – punch without feeling forced. If you’re in the mood for something gritty and surprising, with a realistic female lead – you’d do well giving Shuttle a chance.
Now remind me not to take any more airport shuttles in the future. EEK!