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  Night Drive Get In!
Year: 2019
Director: Brad Baruh, Meghan Leon
Stars: AJ Bowen, Sophia Dalah, Scott Poythress, Lamar Bell, Sarah Buhr, LeeAnn Demarco, Andrew Enloe, Jason Hillhouse, Shawn Kade, John Massey Jr, Dianna Miranda, Nathan Owen
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: As Christmas approaches, it's just another night for rideshare driver Russell (AJ Bowen), and he's not even looking for tips: when one grateful customer offers him a few bills, he turns her down with a "Merry Christmas!" and goes on his way. But he doesn't really have anywhere else to go except home, and there's nobody waiting for him, so he might as well carry on driving his car; his next passenger is Charlotte (Sophie Dalah), a young Australian woman who talks a mile a minute but seems harmless enough, if a little tough on the ears. However, as they travel, she asks him if they can just stop off at a house along the way, he says fine, but she'll have to put the new destination in first - and she slips him a large tip not to bother himself about such fripperies...

In many ways, Night Drive was one of the best kind of indie thrillers, since you underestimate it from the beginning, yet once it reaches its last act you realise you had it wrong, and far from being some cliché-ridden, film the movie in the car because it's cheap and you don't need a permit effort, this is actually very interesting indeed. Perhaps it is best to know that upfront, no spoilers, but be aware this was not the usual vehicular thriller; in the nineteen-seventies the car would be getting into chases across desert highways and stretching to the occasional stunt, but even that was beyond the means of the sort of production parameters directors Brad Baruh and Meghan Leon were operating within. At least they could console themselves they had drone footage of the highway.

This pair, who also split writing and editing between them, had previously conjured up a weirdo horror called Dead Night which received terrible reactions despite being a hell of a lot more inventive than many of its ilk, and there was a flavour of that here, the poor reception aside. Audiences genuinely liked what they did here in general, possibly because unlike their other effort we were able to build to the weirdness and it was also set out its stall as part of a recognisable selection of genre tropes, so while it was surprising as to where it wound up, it wasn't completely from out of the blue as you had been sneakily prepared for the twists had you been paying attention. Helping too were the central performances, which initially came across as rebel girl versus square older guy basics, but they were not as they first appeared either.

For instance, there was a scene early on where Charlotte makes her stop, and emerges at speed from the house being chased by an irate "acquaintance". She is carrying a box, and though it does not register then, you may find your mind wandering back to wondering precisely what it contains. Is it a Pulp Fiction deal where we don't find out what is in the suitcase, or is it a Kiss Me Deadly deal when it could trigger something truly destructive with implications for all of us? Meanwhile, you may be distracted by Russell's increasingly implausible agreement to go along with whatever Charlotte has planned, he isn't looking for sexual favours, we've established he doesn't need the money so much, and he doesn't come across as a danger-seeking desperado, yet by the conclusion his personality makes more sense. Bowen had become a mainstay of low budget horrors, cornering the market in everyman roles that were slightly off-kilter, so if you recognised him you might know what to expect, but Dalah was an unknown quantity and the film capitalised on that with aplomb. Stick with this one. Music by Michael McQuilken.

[Released on digital 11 October 2021 from 101 Films - FrightFest Premiere 26 August 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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