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Cannibalistic killers in a post-apocalyptic landscape … are you yawning yet? Such is the unoriginal premise of Chris von Hoffmann’s feature debut, which reveals, if nothing else, its director’s love and appreciation for genre films. The problem is that his low-budget effort, whose poster might as well be included in the dictionary definition of “derivative,” is nowhere near as good as its endless influences. Viewers would be far better off rewatching a Mad Max or Rob Zombie movie, or any episode of The Walking Dead, than paying hard-earned money to see Drifter.
The bare-bones plot revolves around two outlaw brothers, Dominic (Drew Harwood) and Miles (Aria Emory, who co-wrote the screenplay with director von Hoffmann), wandering through the desert trying to survive via the occasional robbery. Their latest attempt results in Miles getting a gunshot wound to his hand, which, in typical exploitation movie fashion, leaves a perfectly round hole through which you can see.
Seeking medical attention, the two men journey to the nearest small town, where the sympathetic Vijah (Monique Rosario) tends to Miles’ wound. Unfortunately, she turns out to be pretty much the only friendly face in the enclave run by the bizarre, garishly red-headed “Mayor” (James McCabe), whose maniacal underlings seem to be the result of serious inbreeding. As with so many horror-movie villains, the Mayor is cheerfully garrulous, explaining that he and his fellow lunatics are not insane, but rather “just see life differently.”
It isn’t long before Dominic literally winds up with his head on a platter and Miles is forced to fight for his survival against the baseball bat-wielding group including Latos (Anthony Ficco), who, when he isn’t killing people, apparently spends all his time doing ab crunches, and Sasha (Rebecca Fraiser), who happily humps anything that moves.
Despite the relentless violent mayhem, Drifter somehow commits the cardinal grindhouse movie sin of being deadly dull. The technical aspects are executed with reasonable proficiency, including the washed-out cinematography and suitably outlandish design elements. And the performers certainly can’t be accused of not fully committing to their grotesque roles. But the overpowering air of familiarity to this rip-off pretending to be homage makes it redundant.
Distribution: XLrator Media
Production company: Green Star Films
Cast: Aria Emory, Drew Harwood, Monique Rosario, Anthony Ficco, Rebecca Fraiser, James McCabe
Director-producer: Chris von Hoffmann
Screenwriters: Chris von Hoffmann, Aria Emory
Executive producer: Gehrig Burnett Jr.
Director of photography: Tobias Deml
Production designer: Tenniel Chu
Music: Nao Sato
Editor: Chris Visser
Not rated; 86 minutes
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