Shortcut follows a group of teens on a bus that breaks down in a dark tunnel that houses a vicious beast.
It doesn't take a lot for me to enjoy a monster movie. Establish some good atmosphere/comedy, maybe have a decent character or two, and deliver on the monster goods and I'll at least have a good time. (Take it to the next level with some fun scifi investigation and metaphors built into the monster and I'll be on cloud 9!) Unfortunately, what I learned from Shortcut was that my bar for enjoying a monster movie is higher than I realized.
The monster is decent. There is good execution on the practical effects and the overall look, but it is unimaginative in its design and behavior. There was clearly effort put into making the creature accessible to the camera and it thankfully doesn't shy into the shadows most of the time. We get to see and hear it in all its nastiness, and I appreciate the audio/visual candor...to an extent.
Shortcut made me realize that a decent monster with a commitment to practical effects isn't necessarily enough. It takes a purposeful eye with the directing and cleverly meek editing to help balance the mystery and the viscera. There are a few too many shots in which the camera is awkwardly sitting on the monster, like it's showcasing a Halloween prop you can rent out for the weekend. The movie knows it's the highlight, so it relies too much on the monster's appearance, which is, again, valiantly attempted but nothing special. So the monster ends up not being enough to carry the film, which is otherwise...abysmal.
The writing and editing are embarrassingly bad at times (which becomes painfully obvious in just the first few minutes), while the directing and acting barely achieve more than those maligned attributes. I struggled to stay engaged, even after the monster reveal. Partly because the writing and editing are that bad, but also because the monster wasn't impressive enough to save the rest of the movie. I knew I was in for a tough time.
Talented kid actors are not easy to find. I mean, even the kid from Jerry Maquire was looking at the camera half the time. And teenagers can be just as difficult. So, it's hard to judge a movie with this kind of budget on the quality of its actors. I think, for the most part, the kids hang in there. They just weren't done any favors with editing and writing that would've made Al Pacino look like Tommy Wiseau.
I am probably being overly critical. Shortcut, after all, wasn't boasting ridiculous hype for its scares or performances. It achieved some level of cohesion and structure to form a plot about a killer monster in a tunnel. It just wasn't special where you hoped it would be and it was less than average where you expected it to be. At least there was a shortcut on the runtime.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 3/10
Horror Quality: 2/10
Film Quality: 5/10