Shortcut is just the kind of jumpy spooky horror film we need to kick off this year’s season of Halloween.
The film begins on a school bus with only a few kids and their driver. When they come across a bunch of logs in the road they are forced to turn around and take a different route. None of this matters too much, but it does force them to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The radio on the bus is discussing that night’s lunar eclipse, but their threats that night are far more terrestrial.
On this new route home the bus comes across a strange man in a tracksuit. He (Matteo De Gregori) has a gun and hijacks the bus swiftly. As the bus continues driving and all of the kids are terrified, things soon get much, much worse. The bus breaks down in a tunnel, and some creature begins to attack them one by one. Might it have something to with being in a military zone?
To say that this is the moment when Shortcut gets good would be disingenuous because the film up to this point is a perfect stage for setting high tension. However, this is certainly the point where the film gets where it intends to take us, which is a showdown with this mystery monster in these underground, military tunnels.
These kids are all alone down there, save the murderous violent beast, and they must use their smarts and their wits to stay alive. Though they are not the tightest group of chums before their catapult into survival mode, they come together in no time to form plans and stay alive. Shortcut certainty tries to convey an elevated level of comradery, but this group never quite assembles like The Goonies or Monster Squad. They are efficient, but the affection never comes organically.
The monster in Shortcut is the real star. The creature design is incredible, but perhaps even more impressive is the thing’s slow reveal. We see the beast little by little, and with each additional peek it is clear that we need to be even more scared for their lives than we thought possible. Seeing it move in shadows and creep through tunnels is phenomenal and is complemented greatly by the film’s shooting style and music.
Overall, Shortcut is a squarely solid little creature feature with a little heart and a great monster.