Imagine if John Hughes directed Jeepers Creepers, throw in a dash of Meryl Streep’s The River Wild, and you have this feeble attempt at a creature feature.
Five teenagers on a bus end up hijacked by an escaped killer (who eats tongues) before coming face to face with a deadly creature that forces them to fight for their survival. The scariest part of Shortcut may be the lack of originality, choosing to rely on worn character constructs that include the intellectual, the rebel, the brave guy, the beautiful woman, and the goofy dude. While the young cast has redeemable moments that lead to intriguing scenes, the juvenile script that they are working with gives them a steep hill to climb. A bright spot, however, is in the creature that ends up terrorizing the teens; the practical effects are fairly strong and ultimately pretty neat.
Perhaps the ultimate issue with Shortcut is that the story is simply shallow. Why are these kids on a bus together? How did this monster come to be? Is it related to the lunar eclipse that is referenced a few times without forging a direct connection? Where exactly is this location, by the way? There are some interesting choices made in the story that will give off the appearance of a well-crafted narrative from time to time, but those moments are fleeting before the story wraps up just as it started, stuck in a vortex of unoriginality and coming off as a lesser Stranger Things. Instead of a shortcut, maybe just reroute yourself away from this forgettable film.
Photo from SF Chronicle Datebook