The Fearway, 2022.
Directed by Robert Gajic.
Starring Shannon Dalonzo, Justin Gordon, Eileen Dietz, Simon Phillips, John D. Hickman, Jessica Gray, and Briahn Auguillard.
A young couple embark on what should be a fun road trip for lovers, but their plans are derailed when a mysterious being begins to follow them. After relentless harassment and abuse, they desperately seek help from anyone they can.
On her way to visit her ailing father, Sarah (Shannon Dalonzo) and her fiancé Michael (Justin Gordon) are driving along Route 66 when a black muscle car driven by a caricature of a 1970s pimp with sharp teeth tailgates them on the open road. Not standing for any nonsense, Sarah shouts at Michael like it’s his fault the stalker won’t overtake before Michael swerves their Kia hatchback off the road with all the skill of The A-Team and into the parking lot of a 1950s-style diner.
Inside, the couple meet a waitress and a cook who seem nice but act like they know something, even giving Michael two quarters to spend on anything he likes (savvy viewers will know what this means), and there are a few other oddball characters hanging around (including The Exorcist’s Eileen Dietz, which is worrying), just to add to the off-kilter atmosphere.
Once all is calm Sarah and Michael head off again, and their pursuer soon catches up with them as they drive along the straight road and come across the diner again. Back in they go, and there they meet the manager (Simon Phillips) who seems desperate for them to stay, leading the distraught couple to (finally) realise all is not right.
Which anybody watching this movie will already have sussed out as The Fearway is full of plot devices, themes and ideas we have seen in dozens of other cat-and-mouse time loop chase thrillers, and as long as your knowledge of folklore is up to snuff – don’t forget those two quarters that the waitress hands Michael – then you will probably have the rest of the story figured out in no time at all.
As these clues are given in the first 20 minutes of the movie – along with a long glimpse of the driver of the black muscle car – then the element of surprise is out the window early on, making The Fearway a thriller with little in the way of thrills or suspense and you spend the rest of the running time waiting for Sarah and Michael to catch up to what we have already worked out.
However, it isn’t all bad as there are a few new ideas bubbling away once the big reveal is explained to our main characters by the manager, and the journey getting there is not entirely unpleasant as Shannon Dolonzo makes for a strong lead, although there is a distinct lack of chemistry between her and Justin Gordon, who appears to be quite a lot older than her despite Sarah and Michael supposedly being high school sweethearts. Nevertheless, The Fearway does have enough entertainment value despite the lack of proper tension, mainly thanks to Shannon Dolonzo, the remote diner setting and some amazing landscape shots that add a lot of weight to Sarah and Michael’s predicament.
The horror element provided by the driver of the black muscle car is a little silly if truth be told, as his fake teeth look like pieces of orange peel stuck to his gums, and the veiny make-up job and black leather getup just feels a bit of place against the more serious nature of the plot, and there are a couple of other plot details that either go nowhere – such as the manager’s interactions with the other patrons of the diner – or are just underwhelming.
However, as long as you don’t in expecting terror on the highways on the same level as The Hitcher – and let’s face it, there aren’t many movies that can make that claim – then The Fearway, despite its many flaws, is a not-entirely-unpleasant road trip through the American desert that doesn’t outstay its welcome and is a much more engaging (and less conflicting) watch than the Jeepers Creepers movies, with which there are a few similarities. Overall, an inoffensive horror thriller for when you aren’t quite ready to go to bed.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★