J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Drifter: Giving Cannibalism a Bad Name

It is the post-apocalyptic near-future or maybe just California today. Cars are worth killing for and so is just about everything else. Yet the cannibals living in a nearly deserted trailer park village can apparently get by just by waiting for prospective food to blow into town. Two desperate brothers will become the special of the day in Chris von Hoffmann’s Drifter (trailer here), which opens today in Los Angeles.

Miles and Dominic Pierce just got themselves some payback, so they are now on the run. Unfortunately, the more passive Miles had a hole literally blown through his hand. Deml does not look like they would have much medical help but they stop anyway—and they will stay stopped, thanks to the freaky old dude who punctures their tire. Vijah takes them in out of compassion, but she implores the hot-headed Dominic to sit tight and shut up. Unfortunately, that is not how he rolls. Thanks to his blundering, the Pierce Brothers will find themselves on the business end of some torture porn, before one off them gets served up rare.

Drifter is a horribly frustrating film, because the first act shows surprising promise, but it soon craters into a morass of clichéd sadism. The abandoned temp housing and mobile homes are an unsettling sight, perfectly underscored by Nao Sato’s John Carpenter-ish soundscape. Tobias Deml sun-drenched cinematography further heightens the sense of disorientation.

Bizarrely, it is all undone when von Hoffmann has the pack of flesh-eaters execute the more interesting brother, leaving the audience to endure nearly an hour of desensitizing carnage that does not even build up much appreciable suspense. Halfway through, you will just implore the film to end as soon as possible.

It is so obvious when Drifter runs off the rails, you have to wonder how von Hoffmann could let it happen. Oh well, better luck next time. There will indeed most likely be a next time, because you can see some impressive horror movie mise-en-scene work went into Drifter. It just lacks the character and narrative development to match. Not recommended (unless you only watch the first half hour of any given movie), Drifter opens today (2/24) at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood, USA.

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