Review: 'Endangered' (2020) Dir. Drew Walkup
A tense and nightmarish look at what happens when you pick up a real passenger from hell...
Alison Meyers (Zerebko) has high hopes of becoming an architect, but is struggling to juggle real life and lack of work. Taking up night-time shift work as a private cab for hire, Alison has one last passenger to collect before she calls it a night.
The passenger (Olavson) is a quiet, collected man who keeps himself to himself, and initially Alison thinks nothing of him. Yet when she discovers a pistol and blood-stained jewellry in his bag, it becomes clear the man with no name is more dangerous than she could imagine.
Desperate to make it home alive and out of trouble, Alison soon has the police on her trail hunting down the passenger and the crimes that follow the pair. She will have to stay one step ahead of them all if she can escape the clutches of her fare and get out of danger...
Director Drew Walkup makes his film debut with writers Adam Armstrong and Marcus Devivo spin a nightmarish twist on an otherwise simple story of what happens when a ride-sharing job goes wrong. Think of it as the worst Uber ride ever.
Lizzie Zerebko plays Alison, a young architect struggling when work dries up in an otherwise lucrative industry. Turning to ridesharing in the evening to make a little more money, she has the bubbly warmth and innocent smile that you’d hope for in a driver. But that warmth and innocence soon starts to fade and melt away after picking up her next – and final – passenger, played chillingly by Michael Olavson.
Olavson’s passenger has no name, but he comes across as a mix of Travis Bickle and Norman Bates. Cool, calm and collected, but ready to burst when pushed, be it by loud music or liars. In what looks inspired by minimal, claustrophobic thrillers such as Locke or Red Eye, this story doesn’t need a big cast or high-octane action sequences across sprawling locations. Minimalism is key to the overarching tension.
Walkup keeps things simple; a story focused on Zerebko and Olavson as the two polar opposites, slowly dialing up the heat and adding pressure to the situation that you know is going to blow soon.
He’s a criminal out to make a handful of deals in the course of the night, and she is just trying to get home and out of trouble after a series of events brought on by their interactions attract not just the local police, but also the criminals our passenger is dealing with. What makes this engaging to watch is the relationship between Alison and her passenger. You never know what – or who – is ever in control, or making the other tick. They seem to share some subtle things in common, but you can’t be sure why. This is a film focusing on conversation and character development that adds to the tension underlying it all.
As the film goes on and the body count slowly rises, both our leads lose more and more of their initial composure in nice little details. Their hair and general appearance becomes more tussled scene by scene as events spiral out of their control. It’s a silly thing to notice, but just one of those things you do that adds to the overall look and feel to the film about how control is everything, and when it’s lost, anyone can fight to take it back.
With support from actors Ryan Forrestal as the local police detective out to pin Meyers, and Edward Craig and Sam Lukowski as unsavoury types out to do even more unsavoury actions, this is your usual array of characters together for a by the book thriller. There is blood and there is violence, but thankfully not over-the-top. It’s raw, brutal and real.
There’s no need for lots of action or fast-edits and shaky cam shots. No. Instead, Walkup directs a very slick and well-produced independent thriller on a respectably low budget, but with no sign of cutting corners or cheap effects. Filmed over the course of one night around the dark suburbs of Fox Hunt Drive, which was the original title on it's festival release. Kudos to cinematographer Anthony C. Kuhnz for making something otherwise bleak and ordinary look fresh and vibrant with crisp, diegetic colours and camera shots that bring the locations to life.
Taking a safe genre and good direction, 'Endangered' gives a few neat twists that push the film forward in the hands of talented cast like Zerebko and Olavson under a solid debut by Walkup.
'Endangered' is a REBL HQ production