It’s hard to follow something as successful as Avengers: Infinity War, but each week brings with it a slew of new films that will try to fight for their share of the box office. First up is Bad Samaritan, the latest horror/thriller aiming to keep you on edge – and it does just that. Boasting truly frightening moments and a cast of unique characters, Bad Samaritan is a true thriller that will have its viewers cowering with each twist and turn. The film utilizes it setting perfectly and might makes viewers think twice before leaving their car at the valet.
The Portland, Oregon-based film centers on a young Irish valet named Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) as he is trying to make a living as a photographer. While he might be quite skilled at his craft, Falco still resorts to valeting with his friend Derek (Carlito Olivero) and breaking into the homes of their clients after they’re given the car keys. But Cale Erendreich (David Tennant) is no ordinary client, and after Falco invades his luxurious home, he finds a young woman bound and gagged. This kicks off an intense cat and mouse game as Falco struggles to find a way to save the imprisoned girl and stop Erendreich before the madman reaches his true endgame.
Bad Samaritan is directed by actor-turned-producer Dean Devlin (Geostorm), written by Brandon Boyce (Wicker Park) and starring television actor – and erstwhile Dr. Who – David Tennant. There’s a bit of horror mixed in too, but this film is primarily an intricately plotted thrill ride. As great as the movie is, though, calling it Dean Devlin’s “best” directorial effort would be a rather empty superlative. I’m not as familiar with Devlin’s work on TV, but his film career has mostly been spent living in the shadow of his most frequent collaborator, director Rolland Emmerich, with whom he’s made hit movies like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. And Geostorm barely counts as Devlin’s own film, since WB and Skydance had to bring in Jerry Bruckheimer to clean up that mess. So, essentially, you could consider Bad Samaritan Devlin’s true directorial debut, and it’s excellent proof that his career is finally moving forward.
Bad Samaritan feels like a TV movie with the cheese of a shlocky B-movie. It’s surprisingly successful in building a suspenseful atmosphere; there are a few jump scares, and one of them actually got me! (This isn’t to say that the success of a movie depends on its jump scares, but it’s proof positive that I was fully engaged in the moment.) It combines the nail-biting home invasion of Don’t Breathe and the psycho obsession of The Silence of the Lambs or The Hitcher, with a moral dilemma added in for good measure. The terror it crafts is extra potent in a post-Facebook-privacy-scare world, where your life can be weaponized against you; in this way, it’s also a REALLY good tech horror film, with all of the conveniences of modern life used in horrifying ways. The film’s strength lies in its writing and directing; the plot has very few holes and plenty of twists and turns, and the story is quite well constructed and executed, sharply keeping your attention throughout and rewarding you with a tense and entertaining cinematic experience. Bad Samaritan is an unexpectedly good thriller.
Robert Sheehan and David Tennant work flawlessly as a pair destined from the start to be enemies, and they truly steal the show. Sheehan’s Falco is the kind of anti-hero audiences love, a criminal that manages to be likable despite his glaring flaws. Having Falco’s persona be that of an Irish Immigrant is unexpected, and while it might seem small and unimportant, this detail actually affects how other characters view and treat him. It adds a deeper layer to the story and raises the stakes that much higher for Falco. Tennant also pulls out all the stops, creating in Cale Erendreich a dark and sinister villain, the kind you love to hate. His actions are truly psychotic, but as much as he makes you want to look away, you’ll find yourself wanting to see more of him as the film goes on. Tennant also showcases the character’s intelligence with his adeptness at technology and revenge, making him a more dominant and devious villain than has been seen in the genre for some time.
As good as Tennant generally is, however, Erendreich can feel a tad too animated at times, especially when Tennant starts screaming. It makes what begin as dark and dreadful moments turn zany and cartoony, undercutting the otherwise effective villain’s menace. Bad Samaritan also makes a lackluster attempt to create an interesting motivation for Erendreich, dropping breadcrumbs to lead the viewer to what is set up as a delicious and eye-opening ending; the result, sadly, is just a stale and unworthy realization. And while Tennant and Sheehan are (mostly) terrific in the lead roles, the rest of the actors can’t quite rise to their level; they’re pretty good, but the movie would’ve been better with a more talented cast. The cheapness of its look is also a drawback; while clearly Bad Samaritan is more of an indie film than a big blockbuster, it showcases its budget poorly during its action-oriented scenes. There are some moments that feel off due to the use of CGI, and it’s bad to the point of being distracting. Finally, certain moments drag a bit; it definitely could have used some trimming in the editing room.
So far, Bad Samaritan is my biggest surprise of 2018; what looked like a run-of the mill thriller ended up being a very creepy, clever and entertaining film with a great cast and plenty of dark plot turns. Regardless of the bad effects, occasional overacting and the odd dull, overlong scene, it is intense, suspenseful, and very violent. Audiences might sleep on Bad Samaritan, dooming it to a future as an underrated gem, but everyone should definitely take a gander at it when they get the chance.