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‘Driven’ Review: Dir. Glenn Payne [Frightfest 2019]

Driven review: A comedy horror set solely in an around a car, over one night featuring Supernatural’s Richard Speight Jr, how could Driven go wrong?


With a concept that paints itself as being a meeting of Collateral and The Evil Dead, there’s a lot about Glenn Payne’s Driven that signposts it as a laid-back and acerbic horror exercise that has the potential to stand-out. Pair that with the fact that it features Supernatural’s trickster Gabriel in the form of Richard Speight Jr. amongst its cast, and you’ve got the ingredients for a fun paranormal adventure. The final results, however, prove a little wanting with the execution never quite matching up to the potential of its concept. 

Emerson Graham (Casey Dillard) is a wannabe stand-up comedian, who pays the bills and avoids her problems by driving nights for a taxi service. Over the course of one night, her reality is given a good shake up when she picks up Roger (Speight Jr.). It turns out, Roger is a man on a mission, looking to vanquish demons in order to put to bed a long-held family curse. With Emerson in tow with the promise of a large fare, the two set about completing Roger’s tasks before the night is out. 

Much of Driven very much feels like a first draft. The script, for all its surface genre-blending potential, is never quite as sharp or as funny as it both wants and needs to be. There are recurring gags which never quite land the way they’re intended to, leading to quite an awkward atmosphere when it comes to much of the comedy, while the horror is fairly by-the-numbers possession fare that largely feels like an after-thought. 

The script delivers more when it comes to human relationships at its centre. Star Casey Dillard (who is also the screenwriter nonetheless) does well to establish Emerson as a multi-layered and fully-rounded individual, one who has a lot going on in her life and can’t quite face the music of her relationships and career prospects. She also pairs very well with  Speight Jr. as Roger, who brings a lot of energy to a character who is largely lumbered with ridiculous demon exposition that Speight downplays rather well to mine some comic effect. 

Clearly working to a very tight budget, Driven does well to frame most of its action either within the car or around it, leading to a nice sense of self-containment. Where it is less successful is in the manner in which it shoots the action. 

That being said, it is a fun concept with two leads who do manage to hold the screen well together. Many of the more enjoyable moments from the film comes to the pair bickering, even if it does have a tendency to become very repetitive. The more character-drama driven moments with Emerson also feel more worthwhile than a lot of the horror-comedy proceedings going on around it, if only because Dillard’s performance feels more invigorated within these scenes. 

Driven never quite feels like it fully buys into its own premise, one that has the potential to be a fun horror-comedy-thriller genre mix. But the horror is half-baked, and the laughs are largely lacking. As a result, this is a genre hybrid that never quite shifts into gear to be either a particularly good horror or a very good comedy. 

Driven was reviewed at Arrow Video Frightfest 2019.


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