Friday, June 14, 2019

DWF ’19: Driven

Can you imagine anything more terrifying than getting picked up by a ride-share driver who happens to be an aspiring open-mic-night comedian? Roger the demon-hunter will also have to contend with dark supernatural forces, but his driver’s jokes will be far scarier. Yet, somehow, he and the recently-dumped-and-still-bitter-about-it Emerson Graham will work together to save mankind, sort of, in Glenn Payne’s Driven, which screens during this year’s Dances With Films, in Hollywood, USA.

Graham and her roommate have plumbing issues, so she would like to catch a lot of trips this fateful night, as a driver for the Ferry ride service. Despite his rudeness, Roger would seem like a promising fare. He will be making multiple stops, having her wait while he takes care of his mysterious business. It turns out he is out to kill demons and lift an infernal curse that has plagued his family for years. Graham briefly assumes he is a dangerous psycho, until she sees enough scary demonic shenanigans to convince her otherwise.

Even though Graham is the would-be comic, Roger scores most of the laughs. Frankly, Driven is not exactly a horror-comedy that will have you rolling in the aisles. Yet, weirdly enough, the straight demon-hunting storyline is sufficiently interesting to keep viewers invested. Arguably, the film would have been more effective if Casey Dillard had cranked down Graham’s insecurity-based humor a notch or two, both as screenwriter and co-lead. However, she falls into a nice bickering-and-bantering rhythm with Richard Speight Jr., as Roger. They each play off the other quite well.

At the helm, Payne navigates the horror-comedy line with respectable dexterity. He capitalizes on the claustrophobic setting—mostly Graham’s car—building tension organically. He and Dillard also give viewers a vivid sense of the town, which we come to understand is surprisingly violent, given its modest size. You could almost think of Driven as Locke with demons and bathroom jokes, but that would be overstating matters.

Driven is a small film that doesn’t always land its bits, but it is still a pleasantly enjoyable viewing experience. There is just a scrappy underdog spirit to the proceedings, which is appealing. Plus, it deserves credit for being a horror-comedy that takes the horror side of the equation relatively seriously. Recommended for fans of lighter midnight movies, Driven screens tomorrow night (6/15), as part of Dances With Films.