To paraphrase Dick Jones (let’s see how many nerds like me get the reference), good horror is where you find it. I know you Fellow Fans out there that take the time to read these words I chase across these pages have seen occasions where I talk about a film that might not fit the accepted bill for what is called “horror”. Every film that plucks at that horror nerve like a cheap guitar string might not have a monster, or a masked psycho, zombie or creeping thing that plagues the characters…however, as you all know, that doesn’t mean that these more “mundane” situations can’t be horrific. How many of you out there have labored long, worried if the object of your affection returned those feelings for you? Anyone ever sat by the phone, staring at it, everything in you believing that the way so-and-so spoke to you last and the way they were looking at that other person must certainly mean that they’re spending the time you want with them…only to have the phone ring and feel stupid? Sure you have…we all have…now I ask you, wasn’t that horrific? What if the phone hadn’t rung? What if your fears were real…?
In the very neat, intimate, and emotionally-draining (in a good way) Thomas Torrey film Fare, those fears — and a hell of a lot more — play out in a single night in the life of a poor for-hire driver Eric.
Eric is down on his luck. A residential real estate agent during a bad market lull, he’s taken to being a taxi driver of sorts — you know, one of those phone-app driving services, using his own vehicle? It puts some money in his pocket while his wife Audrey, a successful commerical real estate agent, does her work during the day. Sadly, Eric becomes aware that her nights aren’t exactly devoid of activity, either, and as he rolls through the streets with his evening fares, his tortured thoughts force themselves to the surface as he wrestles with his angst and grief. Later in the darkness of the evening, he goes to pick up a particular fare, and sees in the rear-view mirror the eyes of the very man whom he’s seen spending time with his wife. Emotional and nearing his breaking point, Eric begins his final ride of the evening…but how far will Eric’s frail state take them, literally and figuratively?
This film grabs you quickly and pulls you in — as mundane as you might think a film that takes place entirely within the confines of a car, about a seemingly pathetic little guy who’s wife is sleeping around on him might be, you’re wrong. The stark loneliness and despair of Eric is established early, and that knife is twisted regularly through the narrative. From the passing conversations with fares — some awkward, some thematically philosophical — to his woeful, tired and broken expressions and mannerisms (kudos to Torrey, who along with writing and directing also stars in the film) I found myself easily relating to and feeling a great deal of sympathy for Eric. Of course, that sympathy turns to apprehension once Patrick, the man who Audrey is being unfaithful with, steps into the vehicle. Suspense is beautifully built as we the audience knows what Eric knows, and we begin to kind of worry about just what the hell is going to happen to this guy we’ve started to feel sorry for when his eyes maniacally shift back and forth from the road to the passenger in the rear-view.
The film evokes great apprehension and discomfort, putting we the audience in that car with these characters. Although there are some very cleverly-done shots of the car from the perspective of a bug on the side, it’s the palpable feeling of claustrophobic anxiety that permeates the flick, and this is largely based on the tight writing and the brilliant performances of the actors involved — along with Torrey as Eric, J.R. Adduci as Patrick is sympathetic in his own right, and despite how much you might wanna, you’re gonna have a hard time hating him. Katherine Drew pulls out all the stops in her portrayal of Audrey, and damned if I didn’t wind up sympathizing with her too before the credits rolled. And I can’t forget Pat Dortch as one of the passengers from earlier in the film, whose ideas on love, marriage, and life were among the more humorous yet thought-provoking I’ve heard in a flick.
As to what happens when this rolling love triangle strikes out on a long, dark road out of the city — well, you’ll have to see that for yourself — but I’ll tell you, you’ll think you’ve got it figured out a couple times, and be wrong every time. Any film that turns me in this many directions, making me think and re-think yet be so involved that I’m not frustrated but anxious has got my vote, and my recommendation. It’s a thought-provoking, suspenseful film that won’t easily get outta your head.
Oh…and there just may be some elements in the third reel that make you think in more “horror movie” terms…check it out for yourself. The film has it’s world premiere tomorrow at the Newport Beach Film Festival, and I’m sure it will be talked about as it makes the festival rounds.
My two cents.