You can do a lot with $30,000. You can buy a pretty nice car. You can make a sizable down payment on a pretty big house. You can take one hell of a nice vacation to just about anywhere. Or, if you’re California-based indie filmmaker Gualtiero Negrini, you can head out to the Lucerne Valley and crank out a moody, almost dreamlike little horror flick.
Obviously, our guy Gualtiero chose the latter option of the bunch, and the end result is Fairlane Road, which was filmed earlier this very year (that’s 2016, in case you’re reading this in what will become the future) and recently found its way onto Netflix’s list of horror selections (no word as of yet about a Blu-ray or DVD release). Most of this straight-to-streaming stuff is pretty well crap — if you’re a regular reader of this site you’ve seen me bitch about enough of it to know how I feel — but I have to say that on the whole, especially given its numerous and obvious limitations, this one isn’t half bad at all. Which is pretty far from a ringing endorsement, I suppose, but it’s an honest assessment, and I don’t see how you can ask for any more out of your freely-available internet content than that.
Here’s the deal, then : a rather listless young-ish man named Nick (Anthony Sherritt) is headed out to the high desert to take care of his dying uncle, Jack (played by Negrini himself) when his admittedly cool car has some trouble along the way, forcing him to make the acquaintance-at-a-distance of a mysterious, nameless, semi-ethereal Native American woman (Lucy Kazarian) and an even-more-mysterious “YA” Native American girl wearing a leg brace and carrying a balloon (Sophia Marie Negrini, who I assume is the director’s kid, or niece, or something) who’s equally nameless and most probably the just-mentioned woman’s daughter. The pair of them start turning up so often, in fact — either somewhat together or completely separately — that one could even be forgiven for assuming that they must be stalking our ostensible “hero.”
Still, he gets to where he’s going sooner or later — okay, later, given this film’s languid pacing — but when his uncle’s nurse, Kateri (Aurora Martinez) clues him into the fact that his family property sits atop a mass grave of her Native American ancestors that were killed by white settlers in the area, you know things are only gonna get worse. I mean, curses and all that, right?
Still, I have to give Negrini and Sherritt, who co-wrote the script, credit for eschewing the blatantly obvious here and always keeping you on your toes. They don’t do much to make Nick a likable character — in fact, he’s so annoying that when he runs into the “Vato”-type guys above, you hope they’ll kick the shit out of him or worse — but he’s at least interesting, as are all the other folks in the film. The quality of the acting varies, of course, as you’d expect in a production of this sort, but none of it is actively bad (wish I could say the same for some of the CGI, but you can only do so much when you’re making a movie on mid-price car money) and the film’s evocative cinematography and more-than-competent scene staging make for a moody and atmospheric viewing experience that keep you reasonably involved in the proceedings even when there’s not a whole lot going on — which, as already stated, is pretty damn often.
Tell ya what, though — warts and all, Fairlane Road does a good job of keeping viewers guessing as well as feeling genuinely uneasy about where things are headed. And while it more than takes its time getting where it’s going, it has a genuinely “tripped out” conclusion that makes the ride well worth the taking. It’s probably not a movie that you’ll find yourself watching over and over again as the years go by or anything, but it’s a mystifying flick with a lower-than-low-key vibe all its own that comes through at the end with a nice payoff. It can try your patience at times, sure, but it ultimately rewards it, and for that, Negrini and company more than earn a tip of this critic’s hat. Not that I’m wearing one, but whatever.