Review: Destination Marfa

Written and directed by Andy Stapp, while on a road trip from a long weekend, four lifelong friends decide to veer off road and venture into a small West Texas town known as Marfa after meeting a mysterious stranger. Starring: Tony Todd, Stelio Savante, Richard Riehle, Neil Sandiland, Tracy Perez and Kyle Cotton.

There will always be a lovingly endless stream of sci-fi films out there, and there will always be those that aren’t intended to be serious but to be fun, a little silly and easy-going entertainment, this is one of those films. If you immediately start picking at it for every little detail, then you’re not going to enjoy it, you just have to switch off, relax and let it roll. That doesn’t mean it isn’t slightly clumsy at times or that the story isn’t somewhat predictable but again, those aren’t things that necessarily need to stop you enjoying it.

It has that classic feel of don’t mess with the locals but in a more mysterious rather than redneck slasher way. It’s a place full of oddballs who clearly have a larger story to them if you gave them the chance but by first impressions, yes they’re going to creep you out. The pacing is somewhat slow and the progression of the story plays to an unusual ratio, giving what could be considered the ending almost a third of the entire film. It gets points for being unusual but it does fall into the typical problem of over-explaining, it doesn’t need to go into as much detail, as the audience should have figured out most of it by themselves.

The film’s visual quality is somewhat varied, the overall direction is solid, nothing too flashy but nothing overly simple either. The tone flows fairly consistently, it does surprisingly manage to build up a good amount of tension for a film that’s generally quite cheesy or sentimental. However, at times there’s an almost jittery quality to it, something about the image feels shaky. The choice of colouring is also extremely high on the contrast which doesn’t feel entirely intentional but taking the film as a whole could be interpreted as feeding into its thematic choices.

Acting in these types of films is pretty much always as expected, it’s not bad but not exemplary, everybody does their job. Some of the extras can feel stiff at times but they only get very brief appearances. The only real outlier is the age that they’re going for, the actors all feel much closer to thirty than they do twenty so some of the dialogue doesn’t exactly come across convincingly. If you’re also hoping to see a lot of involvement from Tony Todd here, it’s best to lower your expectations. His appearance is extremely brief and not entirely integrated into the story until right at the very end but he’s always a welcome addition.

Destination Marfa is a road trip movie with an extra supernatural edge. It has its flaws, it can be fairly cheesy and sentimental, the visual is somewhat messy at times and it moves a little slowly. Regardless, it holds a nice tension and has a new spin to add to what otherwise would have been a very typical story. It has just enough mystery to keep everything going, you might be able to predict the final destination ahead of time but that won’t stop you enjoying the ride.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

Available on DVD & On Demand in the US from 3 August

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