Directed by Robert Gajic and written by Noah Bessey, a young couple travelling down the freeway seem to be unable to get off the road after being hunted by someone intent on keeping them on the road. Starring: Shannon Dalonzo, Simon Phillips, Eileen Dietz, John D. Hickman, Justin Gordon, Jessica Gray, James Politano, Robin Bookhout, Heather Rozzo and Briahn Auguillard.
A couple very much in love, their whole lives ahead of them, taking a road trip to visit the family, what could possibly go wrong? Well if you’re in a horror flick, basically everything. It’s a beloved set-up of the genre and for good reason, isolation plus unfamiliar territory and the unusual locals makes for huge potential of mystery, violence and fatalities. At first glance, The Fearway gives you exactly what you want, the opening is lovingly reminiscent of many a horror, thriller of the past, the blend of happiness with a taste of the darkness and fear to come. It’s also a well shot opening that sets the tone right where it needs to be but unfortunately, it can’t keep that going and slowly starts to fall through the cracks.
One of the classic issues of this genre is dialogue and The Fearway hits a number of clumsy notes along the way. Not the least of which being its leading lady suggesting that her fiancé should ‘brake check’ the suspicious vehicle tailing them. For all of the obvious reasons but also because in real life, that’s some genuinely terrible advice which could end up with disastrous results, as you can see endless examples of on YouTube. It tries very hard to hit ominous notes which are obvious and take away from the story. Its other key issue is its villain, he’s hardly present and realistically has very little to do with the story, hiding in the shadows is all well and good but there isn’t enough involvement to really justify the weight they try to give him.
The direction Robert Gajic adds a touch more personality, it makes great use of the landscape and building on that endless isolation of the desert. There’s an interesting colour palette at work, leaning into the themes of its landscape. However, what starts out as horror eventually completely changes tone into a Nicolas Cage style action-thriller, which has its own value but doesn’t entirely work here. It means that the potential violence and carnage is never fulfilled and instead its fairly dialogue focused. It moves into a supernatural type arena which again does have something to offer but it’s not packaged in the right way to make the most of it. Although arguably the most consistent element to the film is the acting, Shannon Dalonzo and Justin Gordon lead the film well and are backed by a fun ensemble who all bring nicely unknown elements to the table.
The Fearway cuts itself off at the knees by leading viewers in one direction only to switch lanes late in the game. All the prospective mayhem that it’s hinting at never arrives, which leaves a sadly unsatisfying feel. The performances are there, the direction is solid but the writing is lingering between two worlds and making the most of neither. It’s a decent concept but the execution didn’t do it justice.