Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Drew Seeley, Shannon Woodward, Dave Franco, Katrina Bowden, Josh Emerson, Nicholas Elia, William B. Davis, Raymond J. Barry
Written by: Dan Hannon, Scott Sandler
Directed by: Nicholaus Goossen
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and terror, language, sexual material, thematic elements and brief teen drinking
Running Time: 85
Date: 09/29/2009
IMDB

The Shortcut (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Goods in the Woods

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The big deal about The Shortcut is that it's the first film from the new "genre wing" of Adam Sander's production company Happy Madison (dubbed Scary Madison). Sandler himself doesn't take credit, but Scott Sandler is a screenwriter and a producer. But an even bigger deal is that The Shortcut actually works. It's not a masterpiece, and you won't be scared silly, but for a horror movie to take such a low-key approach, focusing on characters and situations seems like a radical departure. In a flashback, we learn that the woods in a small town are not safe; teenagers can get themselves hacked up in there. Years later, all schoolchildren know not to take the shortcut through there, and most locals have never ventured past the "No Trespassing" sign. Derek (Drew Seeley) and his little brother Tobey (Nicholas Elia) are new to town, however, and some mean kids dare Tobey to do it. There, he runs into a mean old man and the body of a dead dog, but survives. School jock Taylor (Josh Emerson) hears about the incident, and since his dog is missing, he and Derek team up to find out more. The movie spends lots of time on Derek, who quits the rowing team, and has decided to make a play for the most popular girl in school, Christy (Katrina Bowden). His best friend Mark (Dave Franco) is kind of annoying, and the tomboyish Lisa (Shannon Woodward) -- who takes and collects on sports bets at school -- has a thing for Derek. The movie plays like a high school comedy/drama without any real scares for a long while, though there are a few red herrings and false starts. Oddly, I found this all refreshing. Directed by Nicholaus Goossen, the movie has a crisp, light feel; it's not sludgy or choppy or deliberately "intense." It creeps up on you with its small town amiability, and when the first real act of violence comes late in the film, it can catch you off guard. Anchor Bay/Starz has released the DVD, with a director's commentary track.