Night Drive

2011-03-07 10:53
 
Night Drive
What it's about:

Against the tranquil backdrop of a game reserve, South African thriller Night Drive tracks a group of tourists left stranded during a night-time game drive after their vehicle breaks down. As a series of terrifying events unfolds, the tourists realise that wild animals are the least of their fears.

What we thought:

There’s a lot of potential for a thriller set in the South African bushveld: quiet, isolated and scattered with wild animals. An ideal setting for suspense and fear. The beginning of the film creates that: hyena’s yelping in flickering firelight; someone dark, clawed and masked throwing them scraps of what is evidently human meat. And although director Justin Head decided to go with that painfully stereotypical element which colonialists feared most about deepest, darkest Africa - witchdoctors - I was hoping to be terrified.

Cut to a disgraced cop who has nightmares about that terrible day that ended his career in the Endangered Species Unit. And his ex-special forces dad who now works at a game lodge, obsessed with the mythical "Hyena Man". And his mom, who died of cancer. And a troubled couple tortured by the most invasive kind of violent crime in SA. And an old British couple celebrating their anniversary. And a young, trendy couple who met online, taking a break for some lovin'. Trying to form a coherent plot from a mixture of undercover poaching units, cancer, divorce, drugs, rape, game reserves, muti mutilation and gore is a vile cocktail.

Apparently Night Drive aimed to pay homage to the classic slasher film by using traditional slasher elements. The isolation, the masked murderer, the token weapon of death and the random killing of a deserted group. Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? When last did you see a good slasher film? They’re all melodramatic hours and a half of metre-long knives and screaming. Thrillers and horrors need to be original to be successful. People can only be scared by the same thing so many times. It’s always a mistake to try to recreate things that have been done before. Whether you like it or not, it is going to be compared with the bigger budget films from the US, so your plot has got to be formidable. Not a weak mimicry with a different backdrop.

Above and beyond the awful predictability of the plot, the victims are killed off very lazily. In danger of exposing some riveting storyline here, but you’re not going to horrify your viewers by sending your first victim into the dark trees for a wee, of all things. Would never have seen her death coming, right? Squishy blood noises and gore isn’t going to be enough to make up for that either. To add to the, er, suspense, five of the characters are killed within fifteen minutes. That happens because Head tries to fit far too much into what turns out to be a rather unimaginative horror. There’s definitely not enough mystery to hide the obvious identity of the machete-wielding killer. And the flashbacks and back stories almost make it feel like you’re watching scenes from a different movie, rather than adding the intended depth.

One credit to this film is the acting. The cast does a good job with the content they were given. Christopher Beasley (best known as Len Cooper on Isidingo) plays the embattled Sean well, though as a typical anti-hero character. Brandon Auret play a douchey, Joburg coke-head enthusiastically. Corine Du Toit’s Karen cries. And sobs. And bawls. Convincingly albeit constantly. Greg Melvill-Smith, of course, does his gruff and serious role as Jack perfectly.

This film couldn’t pass for a thriller if they put Kevin Spacey in it. Thrillers create suspense and surprise. Horrors, on the other hand, rely on gore and 'shock' tactics. At the very most, Night Drive is a horror movie. And I’m sad to say, a bad horror movie. It lacks originality and simultaneously manages to try too hard, neglecting the need for suspense. Despite what’s, in my opinion, essentially a flop, it’s good to see South African script writers and production companies branching out. Maybe it’s all just a matter of practise.

* You can hear Kim every weekday from 9am - 12pm on 5FM for more candid opinions and hilarity. For extra sass and some profanity, follow her on Twitter: @KimSchulze


Awfully predictable and lacking in originality, Night Drive is a gory local horror that has the right idea, but shoddy execution.
Read more on:    south african film  |  review  |  horror  |  movies

Gale 2011/03/07 11:38 AM
How was the soundtrack?
Johan 2011/03/11 8:48 AM
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The reviewer doesnt know what shes talking about....Typical anti-horror.Woman should NOT review horror movies, leave them to the emotional stuff.And show me a gory horror move thats NOT predictable??BTW the soundtrack rocks
JORGE 2011/03/13 12:46 PM
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SKIET, SKOP & HORROR! Wicked stuff, good action & gore galore! SA films used to be about as entertaining as watching paint dry until now. What a friggin' surprise: a local movie with balls!
Slade 2011/03/18 12:40 AM
Another brainfart of a review. Have you ever heard this chick on the radio? Now that's bad horror!
Ester 2011/08/15 7:14 AM
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I hate horror's! Perhaps that is why it scared the S... out of me! But I loved it!!! Like Jorge said, a local movie with balls, not your usual slap-tick, ug, not one of those again movies. It gets full marks from me because I had trouble sleeping and came to me as a total surprise :o)
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