Three Americans travel to Australia and meet a couple of locals who tell them a spooky true story. The story goes a little something like this: when a motorcyclist is hit and killed by a group of speeding teenagers at Lemon Tree Passage, his spirit remained at the place of his death and reveals itself to those who speed down the road. Warning them they are going way too fast and should probably slow down. After hearing the story, the group decide to travel to the Passage and see the ghostly image for themselves. Of course, this is a mighty bad idea and after they witness the ghost, Maya (Jessica Tovey) begins to have frightening, unexplainable visions.
Australian horror is in a very strong place at the moment and I’m always keen to see what terrifying delights the country is going to produce next. Sadly, The Passage was not the chilling supernatural feature I was expecting as it treads that all-too-familiar ground associated with holiday horror. Far too often do we see a group of Americans get more than they bargained for when they embark on a trip abroad and this film is no different. The characters we are dealt are unremarkable and except for Maya, who is the only slightly interesting one, they are your typical gang of young folk. Apart from Jessica Tovey, the cast give unmemorable performances as they follow the mostly paint-by-numbers horror script. They witness paranormal activity as lights flicker around the forest; they split-up – always a bad idea – and their numbers expectedly begin to slowly decline. Tovey manages to bring her character to life most successfully, but this is because she is given the most interesting part to play. Her visions give her the opportunity to get a bit melodramatic and she spends most of the film screaming, crying and shouting at her fellow characters. She does this well, though!
The major problem with The Passage comes with its lack of coherence. Right from the onset we are led down a misleading path and director David Campbell does his best to make sure we never figure out what’s really going on. Usually, it would be commendable for a director to successfully mask the truth from his audience, but in this case, the plot is so unintelligible it is almost impossible to understand what’s happening on the most basic level. Rather than leaving you impressed and surprised at the ultimate reveal – like, say The Sixth Sense, The Passage just leaves you disappointed, cold and rather confused. The plot becomes so entangled in its own mystery it becomes impossible to unravel itself by the time the film ends. We will remain as confused as Maya long after The Passage shuts its doors.
The scares in The Passage are weak. Long ago did teenagers wandering around in the forest with shadows lurking behind the trees stop being scary. Rather than conjuring up some creative and effective scares, the film opts for overindulgence in silly, typically tame and unexciting ‘spooky’ imagery. Rather than provoking a feeling of unease in the audience, these absurd flashing images just heighten the film’s overall irrationality and lack of common sense. The longer the film goes on the more confusing it gets; there’s a side-story involving one of the guy’s housemates which is where the supposed truth lies. But by the time it’s all out in the open, it’s no more understandable.
With a tighter and more fluid story, this could have been a far better film and it’s a shame that it ultimately gets lost within itself. All in all, despite Jessica Tovey’s extremely able and, at times, thoughtful performance, The Passage is just another disappointing addition to the supernatural horror genre. Skip this and watch something like the criminally underappreciated and quite brilliant Dead End.
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)