SHUTTLE opens with holiday snaps from friends Mel (Peyton List) and Jules' (Cameron Goodman) weekend vacation in Mexico. Set to a soft Calypso score and filled with photographs exhibiting sun-kissed locations and beaming smiles, you couldn't imagine a more lightweight opening.

But the mood soon sours when the girls reach their return airport. Travel-weary and suffering from motion sickness, the pair are relieved to be back on American soil but unimpressed with the advances of teen travellers Seth (James Snyder) and Matt (Dave Power).

Seth's a persistent type though, and when the girls jump on a shuttle bus outside the airport to escape the torrential rain, he insists he and Matt jump in for the ride too - despite Matt's protests that his Dad will be there to pick them up in 20 minutes.

The driver (Tony Curran) is visibly less than impressed to be giving the boys a ride, pointing out a sign on the bus door that states he can only drop off three passengers at any given time (the older, suited Andy [Cullen Douglas] sits at the back of the shuttle).

But the girls realise it's a wet 2am morning and do the boys a good turn (or so they think) by persuading the driver the take them in. The passengers soon divide themselves into the flirty, giggly couple (Seth and Jules) and the quieter, geekier couple who share a tendency towards travel sickness (Matt and Mel). Each pair becomes so engrossed in their conversations that it barely registers when the driver deviates onto what he says is a detour.

When a mysterious black sports car almost runs the bus off the road before racing off into the night, the driver pulls up and persuades the lads to help him replace a tyre. This results in Matt "accidentally" losing the fingers off one hand - and everyone piles back into the bus to race to the hospital.

Or so the driver would have them believe ...

The driver's motives soon become much less charitable when he stops the bus on a remote street and pulls a gun on his panicked passengers. He orders them to sit quietly while he drives, taking their mobile telephones and telling them they will not get hurt if they just stay calm.

But where is he taking them? And why? These are the questions writer-director Edward Anderson hopes the viewer will be asking, banking on his plot's few lame twists to help entice the audience into an edge-of-their-seat frenzy.

Unfortunately, almost everything works against the film.

The cinematography is uninspired and uninvolving, lacking any semblance of character. The film has a nondescript look to it - it could be one of the thousand low-budget US horror films that have been released with that familiar TV commercial sheen to them over the last five years.

Performances feel oddly muted, as if the cast members have woken from slumber seconds before Anderson yelled "Action". When a gun is fired or someone is unexpectedly twatted, the passengers scream and shout briefly, before bizarrely becoming sedate again.

The plot is filled with illogical points that stretch credibility. Like, if the driver has taken these people hostage in the dead of night, why is he willing to allow Jules to go into a store unattended to use her credit card? And later, he sends Mel into another store to collect some bits and pieces for him. Crazy. Throughout, the film is littered with implausible silliness.

I mentioned plot twists earlier. Don't get unduly excited, there's nothing here that anyone with a passing knowledge of contemporary horror films won't see coming. What is surprising to an extent though, is how at least half of the twists don't seem to be effectively followed through. The worst twist in terms of both predictability and "what was the point in that?" is the brief revelation that the driver has an accomplice. It's handled so badly I felt embarrassed watching it unfold. Anderson impregnates his film with aborted half-ideas, making for an almost uniquely unsatisfying whole.

And yet again, here we have a modern US horror film where the "victims" - the characters we need to empathise with - do nothing but swear, bicker and poke fun at each other. They're unlikeable rich kids - who truly cares if they live or die? I do concede on this point however, that Anderson has at least written in a couple of later scenes that do try to bring sympathy to the bond between Mel and Jules.

I did enjoy, for all the wrong reasons, the way that Anderson set up plot contrivances to be revisited later in the story. Like how an early scene demonstrates how Mel knows sign language. Yeah, she gets to use it in an escape bid later in the film. It made me chuckle.

Due to all of the above, SHUTTLE joins a frustrating spate of films I've reviewed lately that are severely lacking in pace. Nothing escalates, no tension mounts - and Curran is so wishy-washy as the villain, that we soon give up caring on what it is he's up to with these kids. It doesn't matter in something this flat.

SHUTTLE emerges as one of the many latter-day US horror films that ably demonstrate how a film shot with competent editing and moderately decent production values can be infinitely less interesting than the comparatively primitive-looking horrors of old that continue to blow our minds today. It lacks that energy, that rawness, that frightening edginess that drives a good horror movie.

Admittedly the final five minutes do offer a mean-spirited surprise that I found mildly chilling. But by then it's too little too late. However, where there are even a couple of minutes of disturbing horror, there's always hope for the future of the filmmakers ...

The film is presented uncensored (what's to cut?) in an accomplished 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. While framing looks accurate and images are strong - colours, blacks and clarity are all good - it did concern me that I'd read reports of the film being shot in 2.35:1. At the time of writing I was unable to confirm this, however please note the comments below regarding the film's trailer ...

English audio is provided in competent 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Dialogue is clear though quiet throughout, while background sounds and music are balanced well into both mixes.

An animated main menu leads into a static scene-selection page allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

The only bonus feature relating to the film is a 90-second trailer, presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 with English 2.0 audio.

The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for DARK FLOORS, ONE EYED MONSTER and MANHUNT.

It's worth noting that the Region 1 disc also includes a 5-minute Behind The Scenes featurette, along with 4 minutes of deleted scenes and 24 minutes of footage from the original casting sessions. It's also stated in a handful of online reviews that the R1 disc presents the film in anamorphic 2.35:1 ...

It's a shame that SHUTTLE is so lifeless, overlong and forgettable for the most part. With this in mind, I'd gamble that the whole script was developed around the idea of the final five minutes. Unfortunately, it shows.

Saddled with a near-bare Region 2 DVD release, SHUTTLE is dispensable fodder - a film that belongs to the vacationing-Americans-horror sub-genre, but is inferior to THE RUINS, HOSTEL or even PARADISE LOST.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Metrodome
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review