Drifter is a curious film. Its references are numerous from The Hills Have Eyes to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with an aesthetic similar to the Mad Max universe. Some scenes are even lifted directly from those films, giving you an overwhelming sense of the familiar, and yet Drifter is nothing like what you will have seen before. If it could be categorised it would stand alone in the very specific Neo-Western, Southern Gothic, psycho-cannibal, hyper-surreal post-apocalyptic sub-genre. We’ll try and explain.
On a mission of vengeance two brothers stumble into a deserted town somewhere in what we presume to be a mid-American wasteland. Dominic (Drew Harwood) is the alpha of the pair, looking after his “slow” brother Miles (Aria Emory) while desperately trying to toughen him up. Finding themselves stranded, their situation goes from bad to worse very quickly when they encounter a group of unusual locals.
From the intensity of an opening shoot-out to the crazed, bloody finale, Drifter never allows you chance to take a breath, as director Chris von Hoffmann maintains a level of insanity that is utterly absorbing. Characters so extreme as to be barely conceivable litter the screen as the brothers, who are no angels themselves, become playthings in the physical and psychological games of their hosts. Everyone appears afflicted with some mutation but von Hoffmann makes no attempt to offer an explanation, preferring instead to leave much of the story’s background to the viewer’s imagination.
What is clear is the violence, which is regular, brutal and utterly terrifying. The camera leaves you in no doubt to the horror of what is happening as the brothers are put through an ordeal as savage as anything you will see in a horror film this year. At times this makes Drifter difficult to watch, but so engaging are the characters and setting that it soon becomes equally as intoxicating.
Completing the experience is a sublimely eerie score that gives Drifter the sensibility of a macabre musical, with specific moments highlighted as if being crazily choreographed by composer Nao Sato. The heightened visual palette reflects this further, adding to the surreal imagery and rendering Drifter a ninety-minute assault on the senses, albeit a rewarding one.
While not necessarily a film you will revisit time and time again, Drifter is one you will certainly remember. Surreal stylings and extreme violence backed by a perfect score lead you on a gory dance, with von Hoffman as the conductor.
DRIFTER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: CHRIS VON HOFFMANN / SCREENPLAY: CHRIS VON HOFFMAN, ARIA EMORY / STARRING: DREW HARWOOD, ARIA EMORY, MONIQUE ROSARIO / RELEASE DATE: 24th FEBRUARY; UK RELEASE DATE TBA