Every week Deadly Movies will trawl through the titles available to stream on Netflix to weed out the good from the bad. As you may have noticed the majority of horror, sci-fi, and monster movies on Netflix suffer from that all too familiar disease of the 3 star rating. Meaning that a) our expectations of the genre are so low we rate everything as ‘OK‘ or b) there’s some genuine hidden gems out there that are underrated by the masses. Or of course, both. So let’s get crackalackin with 2013’s Scenic Route.
Scenic Route is one of those simple-scenario nightmare movies. Think Adrift or Open Water but with sand instead of sea. Two guys driving through the desert breakdown on an isolated road and slowly go mad as they do battle with isolation, the elements, themselves, and each other. Whether it’s the baking hot sun, the freezing cold night, coyotes, or madness, it’s going to be tricky for these two to make it out alive. The desert road setting is a brave one by the filmmakers (The Goetz Brothers) because it’s not as isolating as say the middle of the ocean (Adrift) or the Alaskan wilderness (The Grey). So for the audience it’s tough to buy into the fear of the situation. Therein there’s a few awkward moments where the movie has to present near moments of serendipitous rescue.
The two lost souls, Josh Duhamle’s Michaell (the straight edge serious guy) and Dan Fogler’s Carter (the wacky fat man-child), do a decent job. Duhamel is very good. Carter is miscast, or perhaps more apt, the part isn’t well written. In a party of two, comic relief isn’t really necessary. Even if that’s the point. It’s hard to believe that these two estranged friends ever had a friendship to become estranged at all. And because of this, the aggravation and eventual violence that comes from the isolation doesn’t work. It would’ve worked better (in the case of these two characters) had they been complete strangers to one another. Here, too little time
is given to the build-up of a physical confrontation. When the inevitable fight does happen the men’s transition from banter to actual attempted murder is so quick that it can’t ever be believable. And this is where it all falls flat. From there on in the film stops working.
There’s a 15 minute epilogue that goes for a twist that is so unbelievably cliche in 2013 you wonder if the script was ever truly feature length. Duhmale does an excellent job of trying to sell it – but it really is a cheat. If this epilogue had been cut, and the time put into added build-up of angst, panic, growing insecurities, and mistrust, the whole thing would have played out much better. On the plus side, The Goetz brothers are smart. A cast of predominantly two, shot almost entirely on location, plays to the budget. Meaning that money could be spent on some, at times, lovely arid cinematography. A lesson of writing a project that matches your realistic financial goals, but also a lesson in how not to write a character piece if that’s what you’re betting the farm on.
Netflix says ★★★½
Deadly Movies says ★★½