Film Review: The Shortcut (2009)

SYNOPSIS:

When Derek (Andrew Seeley) moves to a new town and discovers a shortcut through the woods to his high school, he learns about a crazy old man who lives near its path: Legend has it that he abducted a group of teenagers years ago. Ignoring the warning, Derek and his friends set out to uncover the dark secret that’s buried deep in the woods. But will they survive to tell it? Shannon Woodward and Katrina Bowden co-star in this creepy thriller.

REVIEW:

Written by: Dan Hannon and Scott Sandler
Directed by: Nicholaus Goossen
Starring: Drew Seeley, Shannon Woodward, Dave Franco, Katrina Bowden, Raymond Barry

QUICK FIX:
Back in the 1940s, a young couple in love are walking along a path in the woods, but the dude gets a little more fresh with his girl than she’d like. So faster than you can say, “Hey you, get your damn hands off her!” she knees him in the tenders and runs off, only to be offed by a little boy with a powerful slingshot. Cut to modern times, and of course a new kid in town is dared to take “THE SHORTCUT” to prove his pre-pubescent manhood, and of course he does – coming across a dead dog and an old man who of course we’re supposed to suspect is the psycho boy from the 40s all growed up now. The boy’s older brother and his friends get in on the act, trying to find out just what exactly is going on with these so-called forbidden woods. Here we go again, kiddies…

RAMBLINGS:
Pretend, if you will, that in this modern day of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon fluff that our kids have to sit through instead of real cartoons like I had as a kid, that someone got the bright idea to do something cool like they did back in the 1940s with something like ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. Only in this day and age of cookie-cutter quickness trumping coolness and originality, it would more than likely be called DRAKE & JOSH MEET OLD MAN JENKINS…but that might be funnier than this. So much was the case with THE SHORTCUT in my own eyes that for once I actually called in an expert. Roughly 15 or so minutes into this one, I paused it and called my 7 year old daughter downstairs.

I told her that Daddy needed a 2nd opinion on this one, and that her mission working in conjuncture with me in this case was one of the utmost importance and that the fate of the entire Horror Community hung on whether or not she chose to accept her assignment. And of course, being a miniature version of me and a blossoming horror nut in her own right, she readily agreed. So, I went back to the beginning and started it over so she could catch up, and off we went….

She quickly pointed out things happening throughout the movie (twists…I guess?) before they happened on screen and was absolutely correct on every single one, including the end. Not just where it should have ended in order to actually save the movie, mind you, but where it actually ended, with a very unnecessarily tacked on super duper twist ending that not only never should have been filmed in the first place, but that also had the elephant-sized balls to try and give us a 12 second back story half twist that we didn’t need, didn’t care about, and to set up a sequel that I’m not sure anyone wants.

This is a case of the cast rising above their material – every single one of them, including the luscious Miss Woodward (bringing her trademark cutesy sarcasm with her) play this sucker like HAMLET, and the talented and energetic cast is the only thing that saves it for me at all. Also, be on the lookout for the one & only awesomeness of Cigarette Smoking Man himself – William B. Davis – in a cool but underused and too little too late cameo.

Director Goossen, he of the boringly unfunny GRANDMA’S BOY, once again underwhelms me with this outing. I think he tried harder this time, but it makes me wonder if the gazillionaires throwing money at this puppy weren’t pulling his strings a little too tight to let him have any freedom at all. Which gives me a flawless victory segue into this – for those who may not know, first of all, yes this is a rated PG-13 movie. 2nd, which should come as no surprise, it is the first movie produced under the Scary Madison shingle….yep, Adam Sandler was the Exec. Prod on this one, and his brother Scott was one of the writers.

So in many ways, I blame them more than I do the director. In many ways, I also still blame Sandler for sh*tting on comedy in general by releasing YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN, but that’s a beef for a different time.

LAST WORDS:
I’ve talked a lot of sh*t on this movie, but it’s not all bad. Like I said – the cast is awesome and they play it to the hilt and damn near made me want to like this movie. Matter of fact, I would have gone so much easier on it and would have had much more praise for it in my review had it not been for the twist-twist-twist ending, which pissed me off so much due to its utter stupidity that it made me think back to all the other faults plaguing this flick.

On the bright side though, if you have a squeamish significant other that you’re trying to ease into horror, here you go. If you’re a horror geek and are looking to ease your pre-teen children into horror, here you go. If you feel like having the guys over for Twinkies & Beer and want to MST3K something to death and have a good time doing it, here you go. If you want to save your money wisely and avoid losing 85 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back, watch something else instead…that’s actually your best bet right there.

As for my daughter’s well-being and anyone out there worrying about the effects of horror on a young mind, I was also worried for her mental state after having her sit through this sh*t on a stick, so when it was over, I asked if she was alright. You can all rest at ease. To quote her answer word for word, “Jeez, Dad, what are you worried about? I’ve seen worse. After all, I sat through WARBIRDS and SAND SERPENTS both in one night, remember?” So yes, I guess I have tortured her far worse in the past than I did earlier tonight….

The Shortcut (2008)

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