Driven Movie Review
Written by Rachel Knightley
Released by Dead Leaf Productions
Directed by Glenn Payne
Written by Casey Dillard
2019, 90 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest International Premiere on 26th August 2019
Richard Speight Jr. as Roger
Jessica Harthcock as Nichole
Casey Dillard as Emerson
Glenn Payne as Jim
Cabbie Emerson Graham (writer Casey Dillard)’s passengers are great material for her comedy act, which she rehearses in the rear-view mirror between fares. Their infinite selfies and drunkenly slurred destinations – and especially her responses to them – have us firmly on her side and enjoying the ride before Richard Speight, Jr (Independence Day, Band of Brothers, Supernatural) has even hailed her cab.
Doing every kind of justice to every horror trope you can fit in a car, Speight’s animated, nervous energy as Roger is a pitch-perfect performance. He’s utterly involving when we think we’ve discovered that he’s a murderer as when we realise he is actually (no pun intended, fellow Supernatural fans) on the side of the angels. A gentle but joyous comedy-horror rollercoaster begins when Emerson realises the pair of them are all that stands between our world and its possession by the (“Sort, of, for want of a better word…”) demons that Roger is hunting.
Relying on talent not budget to tell the story, this confident script shines with understanding of comic timing and momentum. With sharp and thoughtful direction by Glenn Payne and cinematography by Michael Williams, Driven sends a clear message to bigger budgets about how fast and how well plots and character arcs can be communicated – not to mention how far a cloud of sage and the right musical score (Matt Steed) can take us in a fight scene. There is blood, there is aromatherapy. All are well-applied.
Dillard has described her concept in interviews as “Collateral meets Fallen” but it’s just as tempting to say Supernatural meets Friends – and not in a way that’s going to let down horror fans. The chemistry between Dillard and Speight makes for a complex and believable friendship, not least because we’re given enough knowledge of Roger’s family curse that led him to the hunt, and the fears holding Emerson back from her career goals, to understand their drives but never to lose momentum on the journey. Any potential sexual dynamic between the two is mutually and gradually defused as two 3D personalities emerge and evolve in response to each other.
Samantha McLarty is a truly ominous and memorable “demon-for-want-of-a-better-word”; although not seen for long, she achieves in each of her appearances an understated level of creepiness that bubbles under the storyline, and her performance contributes massively to the atmosphere and, in turn, to helping push the balance in favour of horror over comedy. Maddie Ludt as Emerson’s ex, Jess, has more of an uphill battle in the single key scene for which she appears. Strangely, this is the only example of dialogue not successfully written to fully inhabit character. Her speeches make strong, eloquent points about courage, drive and relationships, but sadly not as naturalistic dialogue – and this is all the more glaring as the essayish monologue is supposed to take place during a conversation when Jess is drunk. Given how sparkly the exchanges between Emerson and Roger are throughout, this lesser physical and emotional chemistry between Emerson and the ex-girlfriend she ostensibly still has feelings for is unconvincing by comparison as well as on its own terms. Luckily, by the time we reach this scene, which may be the heart what Driven wants to say, it has created laurels enough to rest on that we take the ideological points on board even where that one scene has allowed the action to ebb.
Hitting almost all its targets, Driven is economical, elegant and intriguing from the start, with script and production values that make you feel in safe hands to be very afraid. You will probably scream, you will certainly laugh, you will definitely care.
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