Movies From the Black Lagoon: Shuttle

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Shuttle - 2008, Rated R
by Tom Doty

Horror cinema has a long-standing tradition of mixing scares with vacations. "Jaws" ruined the beach," "Psycho" went after the motel trade, and "The Poseidon Adventure" put the screws to sea cruises. It must be a sign that we're nearing the bottom of this well when a film goes after that ho-hum form of transportation that whisks you from your flight to the parking garage. That said this is a decent effort that is about as scary as a film can get when it takes place aboard a mini-bus and features characters who are pretty grouchy after twelve hours of travel.
The film follows a quartet of travelers who board the titular mode of transport and find themselves strapped in for an express ride to terror when their driver turns out to have his own sinister destination in mind for his passengers. Said group includes two young women, Melody and Jules, who are returning from a trip to Mexico where they celebrated Mel's decision to get married. The vacation, however, was no bargain for Melody. She suffers from motion sickness and promptly lets out a Technicolor yawn upon arrival at the airport. Jules, however, is in party mode and flirts with a pair of guys (Seth and Matt) who just got in from the Carri bean.
After a long wait at the luggage carousel Mel learns that, on top of everything else, her luggage missed the plane and won't arrive till morning. The pair snags a ride on the titular vehicle alongside a soft-spoken new dad, Andy. Before they can depart Jules spots Seth and tells the driver that the two men are with her. The shuttle pilot begrudgingly gives them a seat. The driver then proceeds to prove that everyone would have been better served by splurging for cab fare. He gets them lost in a bad section of town and then incurs a flat tire for an encore. He then drafts Matt to help him change it. Here he proves to a total tool by leaning on the jack, which causes it to collapse, severing several of Matt's fingers.
At this point things are looking pretty bad but they only get worse. The driver opts to ignore any chance of positive customer feedback and robs his passengers at gunpoint. He collects their cell phones and wallets and continues to drive around aimlessly.
In time his sinister plans are revealed but first the passengers get pared down like a pack of teens at a deserted summer camp. Eventually everyone is at each other's throats. There's even a shopping trip and one heck of a knife fight before we learn the ultimate fate of the passengers and (surprise, surprise) it isn't pretty.
This one works because they have a lot of fun with the concept. There's plenty of suspense as the victims try and figure out how to escape. One bit, that works well, involves leaving a message for authorities on the security camera at a grocery store, using sign language. The performers are okay though none are strong enough to rise above their poorly conceived characters enough to make you root for them. The best effort comes from Tony Curran (previously not seen as the Invisible Man in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). He plays the driver as a "blue collar" killer. You get the distinct impression that the guy is only making the necessary adjustments to survive in a harsh economy.
Worth a look but you will probably not have to think twice about boarding a bus anytime soon. At least they tried but, honestly, how scary could a movie be when it takes place aboard a motor vehicle that moves like a stoned water buffalo.
Best Line: " I just left a third world country. I don't need a tour of the hood."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: