DVD Synopsis: Just behind the grammar school and past the 'No Trespassing' sign is the shortcut through the woods that nobody dares to take: People in town still whisper about the creepy old guy who lives back there and the kids that disappeared near his home a long time ago. Now a group of high school seniors has decided to find out just what the shovel-wielding weirdo may be hiding. But even if they can uncover his shocking secret, will they survive what happens when the truth is finally unleashed?
The Shortcut is an independent horror film with a bit of a pedigree behind it. Not only was it produced by Scary Madison, a company owned by Adam Sandler (whose involvement most likely came about because his brother, Scott, was a co-writer), but one of the film's co-stars is Dave Franco, the younger brother of Oscar nominee James Franco. And what sort of effect did this brush with Hollywood have on The Shortcut?
Judging from the finished film, I'd say a damn good one.
Brothers Derek (Drew Seeley) and Tobey (Nicholas Elia) are adjusting to life in a new town. Along with making new friends and settling in at school, the two also learn one very important thing: never take the shortcut through the woods. Legend has it that a crazy old man (Raymond J. Barry) who lives in these woods will attack anyone he catches walking through them. There's even talk that some who've ignored the warnings over the years were never heard from again. But when his friend Taylor's (Josh Emerson) dog goes missing, and the main suspect in its disappearance is the old man, Derek teams up with his friends Lisa (Shannon Woodward), Mark (Dave Franco) and Christy (Katrina Bowden) to investigate. As each of them will soon discover, some legends are absolutely true.
Unlike many urban legend films, where the audience is initially kept in the dark as to whether or not the threat is genuine, The Shortcut reveals in it's very first scene just how real the danger is. The year is 1945, and a young man is walking his date home from a school dance. He suggests that they take the shortcut to save time, but once in the woods, the young man tries to rape the girl, The girl is able to break free, and while trying to escape, runs into a small boy (Jeremy Bastian) on the path. Instead of helping, the young boy, who we'll come to learn is named Benjamin Hartley, attacks and kills the girl. It won't be the last time we're shown one of young Benjamin's “outbursts”; scattered throughout The Shortcut are flashbacks of the 40's and 50's, in which we're first-hand witnesses to some of Benjamin's exploits. In these scenes, we see how dangerous Benjamin Hartley can be, which puts us one up on the other characters in the film. We know early on that these teens are blindly walking into a very dangerous situation, and there's a good chance they may never return from it.
And we do care what happens to these teens, who are not your stereotypical morons like the ones found in most modern horror films. These young people are given real depth, and we look on them as more than faceless victims. This, combined with am interesting back story and a truly creepy nemesis, turns The Shortcut into something more than your average Indie horror film.