June 11, 2019 Driven (Movie Review)
Straddling the line of Horror and Comedy has been a tricky tonal dance only few filmmakers understand how to crack. Ever since Charles Barton’s 1948 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, people have been inspired to try and bleed the two genres and make for a potentially fun, unique experience. These days we have more hybrid genre films than ever before because it seems like the “cool thing to do these days,” considering most are directed by fanboys and girls obsessed with nostalgia. When you get it right, it can be an exuberantly fun time at the movies. When you get it wrong, then rest assured, you better run for the hills.
Mississippi based low-fi Director Glenn Payne (Earthrise 2014, Stargrassle Paranormal 2015) gives us a supposedly fresh take on the quirky Horror/Comedy hybrid sub-genre with Driven, which is having its West Coast premiere at the 2019 Dances With Films festival on Saturday, June 15th. Also starring, and is written by, Casey Dillard (Genrevolt 2012, As I Lay Dying 2013) and Richard Speight, Jr. (Supernatural series, Band of Brothers series), Payne himself, even has a little cameo, because why not?
It opens up with our lead character Emerson (Dillard) driving for an Uber type of service all the while practicing her stand up routine to herself in the car in between pick ups with hopes of one day becoming a stand up comedian. Something she still refuses to actually try and do on a real stage in front of a real audience. She’s fresh off a recent break up with her girlfriend, her living situation is tiresome and she just seems to be down on her luck with life. It’s not until she picks up Roger (Speight, Jr.), a mysterious out of towner on a mission to break a multi-generational curse. Together, they have to overcome their clashing personalities to fight their internal demons and the literal demons invading the world.
This cute little premise promises way more than the final film actually delivers. Now to be fair, the budget is ultra low (was they’re even a budget?), and by having these financial restrictions, one must rely heavily on story, character, and dialogue. The only problem is the characters are very thinly drawn, the story has no momentum and the dialogue is cliched and cringe-worthy throughout. A recurring joke about a “turd spooner” just never lands the way the filmmakers intend it to. There are these possessed “demon” characters which are so laughably performed that you would think they didn’t even realize the cameras were rolling. Not to mention a scene in the third act in which Emerson reunites with her girlfriend Jess (played by Maddie Ludt). Ludt’s performance is so awkwardly bad and wooden compared to Dillard who’s trying so hard to make the dialogue work that it makes for an extremely painful five minutes.
It’s admirable what Payne was trying to do here and there are some mildly amusing moments here and there that perhaps might satisfy a general viewer in the right moment on the right day. However, in a 90 minute runtime, in which the filmmakers clearly want you to believe that a lot more happens than what actually does, that’s just upsetting and makes for a very stale experience. Now anybody who goes off and assembles a team to make a movie, which Payne seems to thrive on doing down south, takes courage, so perhaps it’s an obligation to bring up a few small positive aspects of the film. There are a couple decent songs played throughout that were enjoyable and right for the mood it was trying to convey and the final scene was organically charming. Other than that, not quite sure who the audience for this movie is, if there even is one.
Glenn Payne seems to be a jack of all trades when it comes to artistic endeavors. On top of being a filmmaker, he is also a classically trained painter having won awards all over the country as well as studying improvisational acting at the famous Second City in Chicago. All this in mind, unfortunately Driven is not very fresh, nor is it quirky, scary, or all that comedic. It is never fun to attack a micro budget feature film made by a pure DIY filmmaker, but in all honesty, the film misses in many levels. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Driven 1.5 out of 5 stars.