Emerson Graham (Casey Dillard) wants to make it as a comedian but her lack of confidence means that she instead spends most of her time as a driver for a taxi app. In the middle of a routine shift, Emerson picks up the mysterious Roger (Richard Speight Jr) who has an abrupt manner but promises to pay her well if she helps him get to his multiple stops. It quickly becomes clear that Roger isn’t a normal passenger and Emerson finds herself working alongside him to stop a slew of demons that are wreaking havoc across the city.
Driven was funded through a Kickstarter campaign and it made its International Premiere today at Arrow Video FrightFest. Essentially a two-hander, the film is shot almost entirely inside Emerson’s car as she drives around Tupelo assisting Roger on his quest. Before Roger is introduced, the audience gets acquainted with Emerson who has a sharp sense of humour and an obsession with her turd spoon, a joke that recurs throughout the duration of the film.
Once Roger gets into the car, the films kicks things up a notch and Emerson and Roger start a very entertaining love/hate relationship. Initially Emerson is a little scared of Roger, especially after he pulls a knife on her, but once she finds out about the quest that he’s on she becomes oddly intrigued and feels compelled to help him. What’s so interesting about the film is that it’s very dialogue driven and for large stretches you’re simply watching Emerson and Roger talking. It reminded me of Peter Kay’s much-loved Car Share but with a darker tone and of course horror elements.
On the scares front there aren’t many to be found but there are some effective moments during the film such as Emerson being oblivious to what’s going out outside of the car when she drops Roger at his first stop. There are demons that pop up throughout too and those moments play more into the film’s humour than it does the horror genre. Much of the premise relies on you investing in the characters and if you do, you’ll be very entertained.
Casey Dillard is superb as Emerson and she is responsible for the razor-sharp script too. She plays her character with an air of sarcasm and she’s a joy to watch. There’s a nice balance of Emerson fighting real demons as well as her own personal ones, which I thought was a clever touch. Richard Speight Jr gives a wonderfully colourful and intense performance as Roger and his chemistry with Dillard is brilliant. Given that you spend the majority of the film with just those two characters, it’s a real credit to both actors that they keep you so engaged.
Driven is an ambitious and inventive film that does something a little bit different in the genre. If blood and gore is what turns you on, this isn’t going to be your bag but if you like well-written and well-acted cinema that’s endlessly entertaining, you’ll love it. Dillard along with director Glenn Payne, who features in a small role too, has created a wonderfully different film that’s destined to become an indie classic.
Cast: Casey Dillard, Richard Speight Jr Director: Glenn Payne Writer: Casey Dillard Certificate: TBC Duration: 90 mins Credit: Dead Leaf Productions