UK Release Date: 21st August 2017
Runtime: 81 minutes
Director: Brian Visciglia
Writer: Brian Visciglia, Dustin Frost, Kat Silvia
Starring: David Wachs, Jessica Serfaty, Ronnie Alvarez, Kyle Thomas Schmidt, Veronica Loren, Dylan Taylor
Synopsis: A serial killer assumes the identity of a driver for an Uber-like taxi app in order to gain a constant stream of victims to satisfy his murderous lust for violence.
There’s a parallel world that’s quite easy to imagine in which Ryde found its way into cinemas with the zeitgeisty sell of being “the Uber serial killer movie”. However, this debut film from Brian Visciglia is far too nasty, nihilistic and downright horrible to appeal to mainstream audiences and is better off languishing in the schedules of VOD catalogues where only the most devoted gorehounds will be able to uncover it. This is one of the most upsetting and troublesome films of 2017, perhaps second only to The Belko Experiment in its commitment to murderous misanthropy.
Paul (David Wachs) has his eyes opened to the possibilities of taxi apps when a woman introduces him to Ryde, immediately before he stabs her to death in her bathtub. Later that night, he assumes the identity of driver Karl (Kyle Thomas Schmidt) and takes to the streets in search of victims for his unpleasant, sexually-charged murders. Early in the evening, he picks up Jasmine (Jessica Serfaty) and her obnoxious boyfriend Marcus (Ronnie Alvarez), only to come across them again on numerous occasions throughout the night as he questions whether there could be a moral dimension to his murderous ‘work’.
Before it falls off a gratuitously violent cliff half an hour in, there’s something intriguing about Ryde. Visciglia sets his film in the drunken fug of an LA night out and there’s a sense of a half-remembered nightmare to what it is doing in the moments leading up to the central premise kicking into gear. However, this intrigue very swiftly gives way and is replaced by a selection of episodic, violent vignettes in which horrific acts of cruelty are perpetrated, almost exclusively against attractive young women.
The central performance from David Wachs, who looks like a psychotic version of Todd Grimshaw from Coronation Street, is an example of Detached Movie Serial Killer 101. He says very little, speaks only in pretentious monologues about the nature of life and death and explodes with quasi-sexual rage when he carries out his crimes. A regular motif sees the camera hold on Wachs’s aggressive, unhinged expression as he punches a woman to death with a knuckle duster or stomps a reveller’s face to pieces on the side of a hot tub like American History X without any of the social commentary.
Ryde also achieves the ignominious honour of making a slender 81 minutes feel like a marathon of all three Hobbit movies with DVD commentary from the moderator of a Reddit forum dedicated to documenting the proper maintenance of Middle Earth clothing. At least Tolkien fans are less likely to show you the absolute darkest and most depressing facets of the human condition. Visciglia, though, forces you to watch as base, violent urges play out en route to a final scene that delivers a blindingly obvious plot twist with sad hints of a sequel absolutely no one will ask for.
In the hands of a filmmaker with an eye for nuance rather than a fetishistic love of murder, Ryde could have been interesting. It could have been a compelling tale that played on the safety concerns that have always surrounded taxi apps like Uber. Unfortunately, Ryde turns that intriguing central idea into the most basic, boring exploitation movie imaginable. It’s a film that features contemptible, misogynistic violence of the worst kind and never adds up to anything more than an 80-minute odyssey of splatter and viscera that feels needlessly mean-spirited and, worst of all, utterly sadistic.
Pop or Poop?
A potentially zeitgeist-tapping premise is torn to pieces by a director with a hard-on for horrific murder in Ryde, which is one of the most disturbing films of the year – and not in a good way at all. David Wachs delivers a central performance that treads generic beats, even as the character descends further into the depths of murderous mayhem.
There’s nothing entertaining about Ryde and nothing approaching any sort of sophistication. It’s just a look at the depressing, dark heart of humanity at its worst.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.