The indie horror-thriller Shuttle closes with a nasty little twist that both makes sense of everything that came before it, and reveals the film as a risible piece of real-world exploitation. But since that twist needs to stay a mystery, that leaves the harrowing journey to get there, which preys upon the obscure (and perhaps nonexistent) fear of sketchy airport shuttles and stretches the thinnest of abduction premises to the limit. The story of weary travelers taken on the ride of their lives should make for a tight, tension-filled 90 minutes max, but writer-director Edward Anderson continually lets it fall slack before tacking on some social significance in the 11th hour. For pulp trash, this is unacceptable.
Set in a dark, faceless American city, the film stars Peyton List and Cameron Goodman as best friends who hop onto the nearest shuttle upon returning from a weekend bacchanal in Mexico. Joining them are two amiable young men hoping to get laid, a quiet businessman, and the driver, played by Tony Curran, who kidnaps them and takes them on a long, unscheduled detour through the warehouse district. In light of why he kidnaps them, which is part of the big reveal, it makes no sense that he would allow himself to be so badly outnumbered by the passengers, given that he also has to, you know, drive the car. There are so many opportunities for List, Goodman, and the others to turn the tables that an audience could scream itself hoarse advising them.
Shuttle improves slightly when Curran’s reasons are finally clarified, and the friendship between the two women proves to be thornier than it initially appeared. Until then, it’s just an ugly thrill machine—poorly acted, absent of psychology, and not nearly as taut and exciting as it needs to be. When the payoff finally arrives, it seems tasteless not just because of its topicality, but because the shock feels unearned.