As we enter a new era wherein a world leader believes that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, futuristic landscapes where cannibalism exists doesn’t seem too far off of the mark. Written and directed by Chris von Hoffman, Drifter takes place in that all too common future wasteland otherwise known as the California desert. As we follow two brothers on their journey of revenge, they seek shelter in a tiny town that doesn’t take kindly to strangers.
At least, I think Miles and Dominic are looking to seek vengeance for their father; the why’s of these two being on a blood soaked road trip are never really explored. Opening up with a scene that just smacks of someone watching From Dusk Till Dawn one too many times, we’re given the idea that the world is in a state of lawlessness and everyone just needs to look out for themselves. Miles (played by Aria Emory who also co-wrote the script) is the younger brother who is wounded and appears to be a little slow. After the obligatory shot of road kill that pays homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we are then treated to other varied moments of homage to different films until our two brothers find themselves in what, initially, appears to be a ghost town.
After a helpful stranger, Vijah, patches up Miles’ hand and explains that they should leave before Doyle finds out about them, Dominic gets them even deeper into the post apocalyptic shit. Dominic is easily lured out of hiding by Sasha because Dominic is a man who, apparently, thinks with his penis and Sasha is some sort of cannibalistic Harley Quinn.
Now that all of the players are together, Doyle gets to show off his crazy side and demonstrate how he runs things. I didn’t see a library in their town, but it appears Doyle is a fan of The Walking Dead comic books and is especially keen on the character of Negan. I’m also going to assume that Doyle, Sasha and her boyfriend, Latos, are huge fans of Rob Zombie and Leatherface.
Hoffman has stated that he’s not interested in making films that have messages: he just wants to make entertaining movies that are unique and remind people why they love film. Drifter starts out like a fun exploitation movie, but it winds down into something a bit more muddied and it’s a shame because Hoffman makes great use of unique camera angles and I’m fine with moments of homage when they’re executed well and Hoffman certainly excels at that.
A fun, cannibal exploitation movie doesn’t require a lot of backstory or explanation of any kind, really, if you can just buckle in and watch a bunch of mishegas and carnage unfold. Drifter nails this and then loses itself when is begins focusing on Doyle and his town of cannibals. As Doyle sits at a dinner table and tries to explain himself, I longed for the measured madness of Butcher Boys and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4. Kim Henkel wrote both of these films and was a co-writer on the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I am consistently mentioning these films because Drifter is blatantly taking pages from Henkel’s book, consciously or not, and if the two of them were to work together it would be a match made in cannibal movie heaven.
Drifter gets equal marks in the plus and minus columns and for everyone, like me, who didn’t enjoy the time spent on Doyle, there will be people who love learning about that wacky bowtie wearing lunatic. Ultimately, Drifter looks cool and is reminiscent of staying up late and watching grindhouse movies, but something just doesn’t quite come together and this may be a moment when less story and more action would have created a better movie experience.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont