Molly and Jeff are a young couple who’ve only been married for little over a year, and already cracks are starting to show in their relationship. So Molly, deciding that they need to ‘do more things together’, nixes the idea of air travel and decides the two of them are going to take a road trip to visit her parents instead. About halfway there, their car breaks down right smack dab in the middle of farm country. They’re eventually picked up by a local couple, Pat and his wife Elaine. The couple are eccentric, but helpful, and they agree to drive them into town to find a motel. But with everything booked up due to the local Harvest Festival, the young couple soon find themselves back at Pat and Elaine’s farm house, where things are set into motion that neither of them predicted.
The Detour is a 25 minute American short film by Maplight Filmworks, a small Chicago-based production company. Most of the plot of the film mimics the foundation of a lot of similar horror films: hapless travelers, in an unfamiliar setting, wind up stranded out in the middle of nowhere, only to be picked up by “friendly” locals and then bad things happen. Any fan of horror films has likely seen this exact same scenario played out dozens of times before. But The Detour’s strength lies in not only reproducing these scenarios in a shorter timeframe, but by doing a very good job recreating them in a way to subvert the expected outcome.
Though the characters feel a bit cookie-cutter, which is by design, overall the acting is pretty great. Molly and Jake are your standard young, middle class couple who, up to this point, appear to have never had anything go wrong for them ever, as evidenced by the fact that they seem to have trouble handling even the most stereotypical inconvenience of “Oops! The car broke down.” Jake seems incensed that the tow company can’t come out to get them right away and doesn’t take his wife’s attempts at trying to calm him down well at all. And Molly….well, Molly just seems to want to go home and forget about the whole situation. So, basically, they’re basically the type of people who overreact to shit, and you wonder how they ever get anything done, never mind managed to hold down even basic jobs.
They haven’t even left yet, and you can already tell she’s rethinking the whole plan.
Yup…that’s the face of someone who knows they should have followed their first instinct…
Then Pat and Elaine show up and you wonder about their decision making process even further. The older couple are the type of people who attempt to be friendly without actually really wanting to be friendly. Pat is not only stoic and standoffish, but it’s clear that he also has at least a slight misogynistic lean, when he makes his limping wife get in the back seat so Jake can sit in the front. Meanwhile, Elaine is about as socially awkward as they come, talking about how much of a bitch the local grocery clerk is and reminding Molly that she only has so many good “breeding years” left. Having checked off all of the standard “Possible Serial Killer” checkboxes it’s really hard to blame Molly for getting more and more uncomfortable as the evening goes on.
Yes, this is the perfect way to follow up the “she’s dead!” story.
The film looks and sounds great, too. The continuously dim lighting and subtle sounds add to the film’s tension, which starts building up even before Molly and Jake leave their home and doesn’t really stop until the end. It isn’t until their final, silent montage that the tension between them, and within the film, finally breaks, but only to leave behind the true horror of the film.
The Detour isn’t the kind of film you think it’s going to be. It pulls you in and then, like the title, stears you off in another direction you weren’t initially expecting. Unlike some of the other shorts I’ve watched it also has a solid ending, so while it does leave you with some open questions, you also don’t feel like it just cuts off the narrative abruptly. It’s the perfect type of short. It looks good, sounds good, is well acted and it feels complete without taking up too much of your time. If you need a quick little horror/thriller to watch, then The Detour is a good choice.
The Detour is currently streaming on Amazon.