Shuttle (2008)

Mel and Jules have just returned from a girly holiday in Mexico. They are tired and irritable and just want to collect their luggage, leave the airport and go home. It’s this desire to get home as soon as possible that lands them on a shuttle bus which just so happens to be driven by a psychopath who takes the two ladies, and the other three unlucky passengers hostage and plunges them headlong into a night of mind games, physical torture and sheer terror.

The premise adds up to little more than an exercise in torture porn but the film itself is surprisingly well made and genuinely chilling, with little in the way of the gratuitous sadism we‘ve come to expect from this type of horror flick. The gore is used sparingly but is superbly wince-inducing when it comes.

The characters are written in such a way that although they are thoroughly flawed and regularly manage to dash their own hopes at escape, the audience is still able to sympathise with them, especially with the leading lady, played adeptly by Peyton List. Even the driver-turned-kidnapper is unusually well-rounded and played with panache by charismatic Scottish actor Tony Curran. His American accent didn’t waver once and with his characters relentless brutality and almost inhuman and stony-faced determination, he assisted in lending the film an accomplished air of menace from start to finish.

The bus itself is also utilized to wonderfully claustrophobic effect. As each character is chained to their seats in the moving vehicle, with nowhere to run to, no-one to save them and no way of escape, you really can’t help but feel for them and their plight.

With the exception of one somewhat obvious plot twist around the halfway mark, none of the action is ever really telegraphed in advance, which is often the case in lots of modern horror movies. It’s this refreshing element of surprise that leads to some truly vicious set pieces and lots of, largely, unexpected scares. The acts of violence, particularly in the first half of the film, come from nowhere and as such, are given extra weight in terms of possessing real shock factor.

Towards the end, the film did drag a little as it becomes obvious what the drivers previously unknown motives are. Having said that, the makers never prematurely blow their load and certain aspects of the story aren’t revealed until the very last few frames when everything slots into place in its horrifying, heart-sinking conclusion.

Shuttle isn’t without its imperfections; there are one or two facets of the movie that simply aren’t awarded a full explanation or merely don’t make a lot of sense in context. The fact remains though, that Shuttle is an interesting and engaging little film which might make you realise that the real horrors of public transport extend further than the subtle, permeating smell of urine or having to surrender your seat to a bag-laden pensioner.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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