Movie Review: The horrors of taking a “Shortcut,” coming to a drive-in near you

There’s something amusingly disorienting about the creature feature “Shortcut.”

It’s an Italian production set in modern-day rural Italy, with a 1960s vintage Italian bus filled with English schoolkids, and an English-speaking bus driver.

Read the fine print on the sign in the bus window above. “S. Peter International School.” That doesn’t answer all the questions. Why does the Italian escaped convict who hijacks the bus (David Keyes) have an English accent?

Anyway, what we have here is an Italian quicky for the international market, a horror tale with a location — an unused tunnel complex — a somewhat clumsy English-ain’t-my-first-language screenplay, kids, a nicely-restored bus and a monster.

Could be fun, right?

Five kids are on this bus — lumpy goof Karl (Zander Emlano), smart-girl-with-glasses Queenie (Molly Dew) whom they nickname “IQ,” quiet Chris (Jack Kane) in the hoodie and earbuds, budding artist Bess (Sophie Jane Oliver) and proto-punk leather-jacketed Reg (Zak Sutcliffe).

They banter with the driver (Terence Anderson) on their scenic mountain drive — Home? Field trip? Back to Britain?

Then they hit a road block. No worries, driver Joe knows a shortcut. None of them see the just-buried hand sticking out of the dirt at that road block. None notice the bones scattered along the back road that throws them into the clutches of the Bad Guy with a Gun (Keyes).

They quickly ID him as an escaped con on the run, a killer known to “love teenagers” and nicknamed “The Tongue Eater.”

“I know what DEATH tastes like,” he hisses. And it isn’t “chicken.”

Karl has just enough time to blurt “He’s gonna kill us ALL” when, as things turn out, escaped convict Pedro Minghella is the least of their problems. There’s something OUT there.

“We’re trapped in a tunnel and we’re all gonna DIE!” is Karl’s update.

Horror movie tropes are strictly-observed — splitting up, medieval torches always handy, the girl who says “I really have to PEE,” etc.

A friend gets taken, and other kids keep calmly calling his name, over and over, as if they can’t hear his BLOODcurdling screams and cries, mid-devouring, mere yards away.

The kids are a pleasant-enough collection of “types.” There are a couple of decent “gotchas” here, and director Alessio Liguiri (“In the Trap”) uses the darkness of his subterranean settings well.

But the wheels come off “Shortcut” pretty much the moment the kids have to flee that bus.

The problem solving involved in escaping a ruthless, armed serial killer nicknamed “The Tongue Eater” whom you’re trapped on a bus with would have been a lot more interesting than anything screenwriter Daniele Cosci cooks up for the thing “that isn’t human.”

MPAA Rating: unrated, gory supernatural violence, profanity

Cast: Jack Kane, Molly Dew, Zak Sutcliffe, Sophie Jane Oliver, Zander Emlano, David Keyes and Terence Anderson

Credits: Directed by Alessio Liguiri, script by Daniele Cosci. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:21

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