Mikey McMurran’s long-awaited sophomore effort The Final Ride reunites the filmmaker with headliners from his former horror flick Secret Santa. Watching this reunion made me nostalgic for Secret Santa; the humble “lil’ slasher that could” catching on through word-of-mouth and becoming a hot commodity at 2015’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival – midnight screenings were either sold-out or close to selling out. The Final Ride has that same Midnight Madness appeal, but it’s a more scattershot endeavour consisting of three semi-intertwined short stories.
Ride-share driver Jean (Keegan Chambers) experiences many fleeting and strange encounters with passengers. After a few amusing exchanges between Jean and her customers, it appears the film will be focused on Jean. But, McMurran changes course to showcase two other stories. After two couples ride in Jean’s car, their “final ride” if you will, the movie deviates by following these characters on their own weird and dangerous situations. The first couple are newlyweds who have bought a house with a haunted past, the other couple are bros looking for a wild night.
The homeowners are caught up in a straight-up screwball comedy with very light horror touches, which was jarring to say the least. Secret Santa worked because it found accidental comedy in scary situations. This time, McMurran pushes for deliberate laughs with a premise that’s a little too wacky. With over-the-top possessions, an obnoxious villain, and an anti-climactic finish, the short is rough around the edges and simply too much to muster. The relentless nature of this short story also affects the authenticity of the chemistry between the newlyweds, resulting in a narrative detour that soured The Final Ride early on.
The second story is, at least, a step in the right direction for The Final Ride. It also pushes for laughs, but there’s a consistent vibe of foreboding dread along with some cool body horror. The premise involves a tattoo gone wrong as one of the men, Cody (Brent Baird), is slowly swallowed up by the ink. The other friend, Ray (Geoff Almond), makes for good comic relief as he comments on the malicious tat and his pal’s situation. Just like the first story, the finale is anti-climactic. However, the short is worthy of being featured.
McMurran concludes The Final Ride with the film’s best story. We return to Jean, who has picked up a shady creep (Steve Kasan). The stranger makes subtle advances and haggles with Jean so that he can gain more control over her and the vehicle. Chambers compliments the scene well with her gradual unease. When a cop pulls over the car, the short story gets more challenging for Jean with an unpredictable twist – turning the story into an exciting vigilante thriller. This is also an awesome showcase for Keegan Chambers, who should be playing a bad ass or “the final girl” in upcoming horrors. Directors and casting agencies, please, take note.
The Final Ride is uneven with the occasional treat. It’s much better than the abysmal An Hour to Kill, which was structured similarly, but it’s further proof that these anthology pieces still need substantial material to stay afloat – it’s not enough to be quick and to the point. If the stories in The Final Ride culminated to a big payoff (much like how The Secret Life of Pets 2 or Love, Actually did), the film would have been working towards a goal. Without that endpoint though, movie goers end up with a small collection of shorts that would’ve been better off standing on their own than to be cobbled together into a movie.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie