Shuttle is grimy little shocker, as bleak as the come. Its central premise, a late night ride home from the airport descending into nightmare, is passable, though it suffers from the odd lapse in plausibility. But there is enough of the home truths, this just could happen, elements to be generally effecting. While no classic, Shuttle will leave you shaken – if not quite stirred.
A duo of tight central performances drives the narrative. US TV actress, Peyton List, gives a nuanced, and thoroughly believable, take on the ‘scream queen’ horror herein. She strikes a fine balance between vulnerability and resourcefulness as her character, Mel, trys her hardest to salvage some dignity. But it is Tony Curran, probably best know for his portrayal of the Invisible Man in the lamentable League Of Extraordinary Gentleman, that is really given the licence to let it off the leash as the almost reluctant villain.
It is the power play between protagonist and antagonist that raises Shuttle above the murk of most straight-to-video releases. And if writer/director Edward Anderson (a talent to watch) had secured a little more than the obviously minimal budget, Shuttle could just have been a lo-fi classic.
The supporting cast also turn in admirable turns. Cameron Goodman does a fine job as Mel’s bimbo best friend, Jules. And Cullen Douglas adds a bit of empathy to the nerdy accountant, Andy. Their characters are stereotypes, but the actors manage to flesh them out with some life. Anderson’s direction is slick, some genuine nervy moments get thrown into the mix and the editing is smooth.
The film’s main problem, though, is its lack of a money shot. Neither a straight-up high tension rollercoaster nor hard-out grizzly gore porn, Shuttle suffers from a slight identity crisis. Once again, had Anderson been given the resources, you could imagine the film descending into pure blood and guts violence. And, in many respects, the fact they had to reign in the voyeurism adds to Shuttle’s gritty realism. But you feel that the film is building to a moment that never quite comes.
What is interesting is the ambiguity that remains over the plot and the intentions of the villains. Curran’s “Driver” (he is never named) is not your stock slasher psycho. There is a shot, towards the end of the film, where you see Curran, head in hands, eyes gleaming with near-despair. It is a strangely humanist moment, rare in genre horrors.
The plot itself will keep you guessing. Whether by chance or by design, the loosely stitched together details of what is actually going on offers just enough of a carrot to entice you to stick with Shuttle. And the claustrophobic atmosphere of the prison-like van, where 80% of the film takes place, seems to be simmering towards full boil.
Many have commented about the ending being anti-climatic or unsatisfactory, though, which may have been why this otherwise technically competent film missed out on a theatrical release. But, on refection, it seems in fitting with the whole film’s milieu. It is certainly affecting.
However, Shuttle can never escape from its central flaws: the reveal seems glossed over, it’s over long and one note with some pretty large plot holes, and all just a little meandering, particularly in the second act. This was never going to be a big crowd pleaser in its current form.
It is an enigma then, quite where Shuttle lies: an almost-clever horror that makes the most of its budgeting restrictions, or a wannabe video nasty that lacks a visceral punch? Solid performances lift it above the dire, but it would be hard to seriously recommend to anyone other than a fan of the genre. DVD extras account to absolutely zippo: the only thing included is a trailer, which won’t make a lot of difference after watching the film.
Shuttle is released on the 4th of May.