Directed by Glenn Payne
Written by Casey Dillard
Starring Casey Dillard, Richard Speight Jr., Jessica Harthcock, Bill Luckett, Leah Hudspeth, Glenn Payne, Jennifer Hamilton Collins, Nicholas Roylance
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DRIVEN is more of a movie that only dips its toe in horror though. Sure there are big factors of horror at play, but horror is not the main component and I think if you’re looking for some kind of grisly horror with gnarly gore, you’re going to come from this film pretty disappointed. That said, if you’re a fan of character over event, you’ll most likely rate DRIVEN as a more enjoyable ride.
Writer/actor Casey Dillard plays Emerson, a late-night driver for Lyft or Uber/aspiring stand-up comedian. Emerson goes through the gauntlet of pushy, chatty, drunk, and generally annoying patrons through the night, which is pretty typical. But all normalcy is tossed out the window when Roger (Richard Speight Jr.) gets in Emerson’s car. After a few stops, Emerson begins to get suspicious of Roger’s activities as he arrives at one location, tells her to stay, and returns to the car telling her to move on quickly to the next locale. When the conversation gets heated, Emerson finds out that Roger is on a quest to destroy demons who have possessed people and has to kill a certain number of them before the night ends. Needless to say, Emerson’s night just got weird.
Right off the bat, I’m going to categorize DRIVEN as “not for me.” While I can recognize the effort put into the film and the talent of the folks behind it, I just wasn’t blown away by the film by the time the end arrived. I think a lot of this is because the film only feels peripherally like a horror film. The main focus here is on writer/actor Dillard’s Emerson character and unfortunately the whole thing plays as somewhat egocentric and self-aggrandizing if I’m being honest. She talks to the camera, which isn’t made completely clear as she seems to be reciting her comedy act into her phone when we first meet her. Dillard talks all of the time in that snide and judgmental speak that most comedians adopt while doing their act, so it’s an easy thing to be confused by. This is pretty much the way she talks the entire time and for me, this got to be pretty grating. Breaking the fourth wall is a tough sell and while the film does have a few potent laughs, DRIVEN simply isn’t as clever or funny as it thinks it is. Sure it’s something Deadpool can get away with, but not everyone has that type of comic timing or charisma. So I can’t say Dillard’s character made me care, no matter how much we are supposed to have sympathy for her plight.
While some might think DRIVEN is about a demon hunter fighting demons, it really isn’t as the real focus of the film is all about Dillard’s character. Will she get back with her ex? Will she be brave enough to be a stand-up comedian and walk into that open mic night? I know this is a film about believing in something intangible—like fighting demons or being in love or having the confidence to believe in oneself. It’s a decent theme to explore, but I feel the main attention of the film never really strays from Dillard and that makes the stakes of Roger’s quest feel really unimportant and low, no matter how dire he says the situation is.
Dillard and Speight are both good actors and I think they both have some fine moments in DRIVEN. But for me, this felt like Dillard was a little too interested in herself and isn’t afraid to make a whole movie about it. This is a rom com-esque film that really does not know how to spread the horror and humor evenly. Maybe DRIVEN would sit better for those with more patience for a romantically themed vision quest story. Sorry, this one just did not work for me.