Directed by: Chris von Hoffmann
Cast: Aria Emory, Drew Harwood, Monique Rosario
Another ambitious indie film creeps up on the masses as Drifter prepares to head for theaters on February 24th. Intrigue in the film has been a bit elevated when compared to other small genre productions, and a big reason for that is the flick’s very well-cut trailer. It’s a successful seller, in my honest opinion, and it had my eyes glued to the screen upon first viewing. Well, here’s the good news: the trailer doesn’t even do the film justice. The bad news is, even though gorgeous in certain spots, the film ultimately proves to be extremely uneven.
Without divulging too many details I can tell you that the story centers on two young men who come across a small ghost “town” (for lack of a better term), where one really messed up family sneaks from the shadows to pounce. For food. That’s right, Drifter is a cannibal flick.
The opening half of the picture borders on brilliant. The cinematography and editing are both fresh and appealing. The synth-heavy score screams of nostalgic charm. The chemistry between the film’s antiheroes, Dominic (Drew Harwood) and Miles (Aria Emory) is taut and completely believable. These are performers that work well together, capable of guiding a very direct story in interesting directions. It really does do the vintage approach properly, the problem is, the feature falls into so many potholes in the second half of the film that getting the figurative (and literal, actually) flat tire seems inevitable.
Where does it all go wrong, you ask?
It goes wrong when the flick becomes a tamer rendition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This little “family” is a bit cleaner, physically speaking, but they’re still just a family of maniac cannibals who prey on whatever meat may be available. All the beautiful set-up work in the first half of the movie suddenly feels as though it has been completely wasted. All the potential for inventive spins disintegrates into nothingness, essentially. I’m not sure how you squander such potential, but the gang behind this one allow it to eventually happen, which is a bummer, considering how engaging the first 40 minutes of the movie are.
The acting is a coin flip call, often up and down and rarely polished after the mid-way mark. The challenge of sticking through the film as it moves toward its conclusion only becomes an ever-increasing test of the attention span as we crawl through poorly delivered lines and extreme physical over-acting. The whole vehicle just falls apart, and it really is frustrating to see. I’m still questioning how things get so far out of hand so quickly. It’s almost as though two separate individuals shot and edited the film, with one talent tackling the first 40 minutes and a completely different set of eyes working on the second 40 minutes.
I appreciate the picture’s more intense moments, and the ruthlessness of a few of the characters is also quite satisfying. The first half of the film is superb, while the second half isn’t. My recommendation would probably be to stick to those first 40 minutes. If you’ve seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you’ve pretty much seen the second half.