Have you ever thought to yourself (or maybe you thought it out loud) “there aren’t enough horror movies out there that paint Native Americans in a negative, forever vengeful, bloodthirsty and offensive light?” Well buckle up- because I have good/horrible news for you. I stumbled across one.
At just over an hour and with one star on the usually accurate Netflix rating system, 2016’s “Fairlane Road” repeats the same trite, predictable mistakes it’s desert-based/inspired predecessors have made: the twist(s) can be spotted a mile away, there’s a ton of loose ends that get absolutely no resolution whatsoever and are included purely just to keep this movie from being a measly 30-45 minutes long, instead- and it perpetuates some pretty bad stereotypes about indigenous people that we really, really could have done without.
Worst of all? Unlike the character of Nathan in my recent “Comforting Skin” review- this movie has no redeemable characters. They’re all grating, horrible and over-acted. I know I’m essentially pointing out and picking on the obvious in what I’m sure could be considered an easy target here- but for a movie that doesn’t even try to be different (or scary)– it’s actually irritating by the time you’re minutes away from the ending and praying the credits will start to roll.
I digress! I watched “Fairlane Road” in it’s entirety and gave it the “Horrors of Netflix” treatment it so rightfully deserves. As usual, full spoilers lay beyond the “READ MORE/CONTINUE READING” tab- so if you don’t want to be spoiled and want to see this movie for yourself- DO NOT PROCEED.
You’ve been warned!
“Fairlane Road” begins with some beautiful shots of desert scenery during a sunrise. The mountains! The sand! The weird little shanty shack in the middle of nowhere… Uh, alright? Just as I grimaced at how secluded the shack appears to be and how there have probably been multiple murders in there- the front door opens and a heavyset man dragging an Oxygen tank behind him stumbles outside (narrowly missing a rattlesnake that just so happens to drop by in the process.)
He doesn’t make it far out of the door before he collapses on the ground and goes to let out a scream just as the scene cuts to a young couple sleeping in bed together. Their landline (this movie is from 2016- how does anyone under the age of 40 still have a functioning landline?) rings- going right into an obnoxious pre-recorded answering message that is only funny to the two of them. Their names are Sharon and Nick, however- which is really the only valuable thing that comes from having to listen to it.
Nick eventually answers the phone when he hears his mom sobbing on the line. She’s rude and loud as hell- to both Nick and Sharon- despite being the inconsiderate one who wakes them up to tell them that Nick’s uncle Jack, the guy from the very first scene, was found collapsed in the desert by his caretaker- who inconveniently has to leave town that weekend. I don’t know what Craigslist style caretaking service Jack is assigned to- but isn’t it standard protocol to have some sort of backup ready in case of instances like these? No? We’re just going to ignore that for the sake of the plot of this movie? Okay.
Nick’s mom basically guilts him into abandoning his plans (and Sharon) to attend a wedding that weekend so that he can go care for his uncle, instead. While he’s on the phone- Sharon heads into the bathroom to take a pregnancy test that presumably turns up positive, and Nick eventually hangs up to smoke a bowl and brood over the fact that he has to figure out a way to tell his girlfriend he’s bailing on her. We never actually see how well it goes- because the opening credits start rolling over an extended shot of Nick pulling out of his garage and heading towards the desert in his convertible.
For some inexplicable reason, Nick stops the car on the side of the road to wipe off the grill- leaving him vulnerable in the middle of nowhere. Sure enough, he’s accosted by two Spanish guys driving what looks like the least threatening Toyota Camry around. They want to buy his ride. They want to know where he’s going- and why. The main guy doing the talking even goes as far as to spit on Nick’s car in order to help him get some of the sand off- which is grounds for an ass whoopin’ right there. They eventually leave after Nick briefly fills them in on where he’s going and why- but I’m sure it won’t be the last we see of them.
After taking another call from his condescending mother, Nick presses on towards his uncle’s house- encountering a young woman limping down the side of the road in a leg brace. He stops to offer her assistance but she doesn’t talk to him. She barely makes eye contact with him before pointing him onward. All signs point to this weekend turning disastrous and creepy- but Nick keeps going. Once he reaches his uncle’s shack- the assigned nurse gives him the rundown: his uncle is very sick, needs his Oxygen, and keeps talking about seeing ghosts at a nearby gravesite. It’s at this point I would just bail and go back to the original plan of attending a wedding with Sharon- but Nick, for whatever reason- stays.
After his uncle makes it perfectly clear he doesn’t want him there, Nick once again misses out on the opportunity to up and leave- and instead drives into town to get supplies (see: alcohol) since his uncle’s refrigerator is more empty and barren than the desert outside. He ends up buying some weed, instead- and heads back to his uncle’s well after dark. As you can probably expect- something goes wrong and Nick ends up hitting something in the road (is it even considered a road? It’s just all sand and brush.) Checking under his car, there’s nothing there- but there IS a woman watching him from the distance, however.
Back at the house, Nick and Jack kinda’, sorta’ bond over beer. Nick tells his uncle about Sharon and how she’s pissed off at him for bailing on her- but also alludes to the fact that he didn’t want to go to the wedding with her, anyway. Elsewhere, at a headstone somewhere not far from Jack’s shack- a woman creepily slinks by the grave marker. It’s the set-up for Jack to tell Nick about a Navajo tribe that had inhabited the area being wrongly accused of stealing a local rancher’s cattle and slaughtered as punishment- their bodies pushed into a mass grave that is, you guessed it- marked by the headstone that was just shown a couple of minutes earlier.
No sooner does Nick get up to get both he and Jack a refill on their drinks (because nothing says toast-worthy like hearing a story about Native American genocide) when the first of what I assume will be many ghosts shows up. Jack sees her lurking outside his kitchen window, but says nothing- turning down a night cap and leaving Nick to fend for himself once he’s gone to bed.
While Nick sleeps that night, the woman he’d stopped to try and help in the desert- the one with the leg brace- just lets herself in through the front door and creepily hovers over him while Nick has a dream about a pregnant woman we haven’t seen before and hitting something in the road with his car earlier that night. The girl with the leg brace eventually floats over Nick in mid-air for a while before we cut to the following morning and Nick is making breakfast while a phone rings. Turns out Uncle Jack has a landline, too (WHY) and his sister- Nick’s crazy mother- is checking in. There’s a pretty dark and foreboding exchange between the two. Jack tells Nick’s mother he doesn’t want him there while she insists he’s ungrateful and wants to know if he intends to tell his nephew his “dark secret”. Um…
Breakfast goes well for all of two minutes before Jack flips out when Nick attempts to unclog a pipe in the ceiling (and a dead bird lands on him in the process.) Jack likes things the way they are- but Nick thinks his uncle is living in squalor and is just being a stubborn pain in the ass. While they bicker, there’s a noise outside- and Nick runs out just in time to catch those two Spanish guys from earlier stealing his car. Jack informs him that the guys also cut the phone line (this is why landlines are awful) and Nick is understandably furious- grabbing the nearest steak knife to go out and seek revenge when he thinks they’re back outside the shack. He doesn’t find anything- except tracks that CLEARLY belong to someone who walks with a limp. I wonder who?
When he asks his uncle about the girl he saw the day before in the leg brace- Jack gets infuriated that Nick spoke to her and tells him to leave. I don’t know how he expects Nick to do so without a set of wheels, but okay. Back inside- someone or something throws a non-threatening pink ball at Jack. He proceeds to deflate it with a knife and throw it away- only to find another one in his living room when he comes around the corner.
Outside, Nick is- well, I don’t really know what he’s getting ready to do- housework, by the looks of it? Anyway, he gets bumped by a truck that pulls onto the property. As it turns out, Jack has a redneck landscaper to tend to his sand, shrubs, and rattlesnakes, apparently- and the guy talks with the most forced and offensive Spanish accent I’ve ever heard. Think of the words “eyyy mang!” and then multiply that by 20. There you go. It’s fucking horrendous. Anyway, the landscaper busts Nick’s balls for a while before eventually helping him with getting his uncle’s pickup truck started so he can go into town to file a police report for his car and check his messages.
The sheriff is pretty useless- and also politically correct (which is actually pretty funny) while he sets up a report for Nick’s stolen car. Nick also takes the opportunity to call Sharon and apologize for not going with her to Vegas. She tries to tell him her news about being pregnant when the signal gets dropped. This guy just can’t catch a break.
While out on the road, Nick sees his car being driven by the two assholes who stole it and begins to follow them in his uncle’s pickup truck. He stops short when there is a random wolf in the road, however. Nick goes to back up to try and get around it so he doesn’t hit it- but the wolf vanishes. Doing what any intelligent person would do when faced with the possibility of getting mauled by a large, wild animal in a town where I don’t think they even have a hospital- Nick GETS OUT OF THE CAR TO INVESTIGATE. It’s while he’s staring off into the sunset that we see a strange woman climb into the back of his truck.
Nick nearly catches the strange woman hiding in the truck, but his awful mother calls him to berate him again. Nick finally mans up and hangs up on her just as her screeching voice nearly caused me to convulse- and heads off in the truck. He’s riding through the desert, presumably looking for his car, when he sees a fire burning nearby and goes to check it out for some reason. Nick is making every terrible white person decision in horror movies right now.
The fire is not coming from his car, thankfully. It’s just a basic campfire- but Nick catches sight of the girl with the leg brace and chases after her to try and get her attention. Instead, while climbing up the side of a steep looking cliff to reach her- Nick gets kicked off by the woman who had been hiding in the back of his truck- who then rips some of his hair out as he lays on the ground, unconscious.
When Nick comes to, he tries to drive home- but I’m pretty sure he has a concussion at this point and he passes out behind the wheel. A ball bounces across the hood of the truck, and a woman’s voice from the passenger’s seat screams out Jack’s name as she attempts to take the wheel- and that’s the end of that scene until Nick is suddenly back at his uncle’s place and struggling to get through the front door. Jack confronts him on where he’s been- but Nick has had enough. He tells his uncle off for being a dick and assures him he’s leaving the following day before the trauma to his head causes him to fall asleep. Jack, not knowing anything about how concussions work- simply covers his nephew with a blanket and heads outside, sans-Oxygen tank- to have a smoke.
The wolf comes back, complete with CGI eye glowing- while Jack is trying to kill himself a little faster. The wolf eventually morphs into a half wolf/half woman/werewolf hybrid using “Animation For Beginners” style effects. It doesn’t maul him- but Jack rushes back into his house to get his Oxygen and have a good cry while Nick sleeps on the sofa nearby.
Elsewhere in the desert, the woman who kicked Nick off the side of the cliff and ripped out some of his hair is having a little bonfire ritual. She burns the hair she took- and then inhales it- which is honestly the most disgusting part of this movie so far. Has anyone ever smelled burnt hair? Good God. She also jams a knife into her chest and paints her face with the blood, because why not?
The next morning, Nick is going to take a shower when he sees his uncle clutching some paperwork in a folder. When his uncle drops it- Nick takes the opportunity to look it over. There’s discharge paperwork from the Marine Corps, a picture of a much younger looking Jack with the pregnant brunette that had been in Nick’s dream during his first night there- and her death certificate. As it turns out, Jack had swerved to avoid a deer while driving with his wife and had caused an accident resulting in her death. What does this have to do with the woman by the campfire, the girl with the leg brace, or any of what has happened leading up to this point again?
Nick confronts Jack- gets nowhere- and goes to get the truck he abandoned the night before. There’s a rattlesnake in the truck somehow, which prompts Nick to hop out and stumble upon a missing persons poster. The girl, who has been missing since the night Jack’s wife died, is the girl with the leg brace. FINALLY- some continuity. It just took an hour and 15 minutes of absolutely nothing of importance to get there.
Now that there seems to be a link here- Jack didn’t hit a deer, he must have ran over the girl in the leg brace and the woman from the cliff and the campfire is seeking vengeance- all hell breaks loose. There’s a terrible CGI storm brewing: complete with lightning and hail. Wolves are chasing Nick as he makes a B-line towards Jack’s house. It’s all very dramatic.
Cornered, Nick demands answers from Jack and OH BOY does he get them. As it turns out- Nick’s mother is not really his mother, and Jack is actually his father- not his uncle. Oh, and that woman is hellbent on killing him. Nick is pretty freaked out, and goes to leave- but that very same woman is waiting to literally BEAT HIS ASS outside. He gets the upper hand, knocking her out- but rather than subdue her or do anything remotely useful: Nick instead goes back inside to AGAIN confront Jack about what the hell is happening.
Jack finally elaborates without being a dick about it: He came home drunk one afternoon, which pissed off his pregnant wife. She threatened to leave and they fought. Jack had shoved her and she fell down- causing her to go into labor a couple of months early. En route to the hospital, drunk-ass Jack accidentally hit the girl in the leg brace- killing her instantly. Jack’s wife, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt like an idiot- was also badly injured. Panicked, Jack moved the girl in the brace to the side of the road and proceeded to the hospital where Nick was born and kept until he was healthy enough. Jack, knowing that he would eventually be found out- gave Nick away to protect him.
The woman from the cliff is the dead girl’s mother and is trying to kill Jack’s only son as payback for him killing and abandoning her only daughter. Okay, great. It still doesn’t explain the mass grave near Jack’s home, the two Spanish guys who stole Nick’s car, or why we needed to meet the offensive-to-all-senses landscaper, though.
The woman morphs into a snake and creeps inside Jack’s home. Jack spots her- about to bite Nick- and shoots her. But he somehow shoots Nick, instead. Nick dies into the most anti-climactic way ever, and we suddenly re-visit the very first scene in the movie where Jack has stumbled outside and collapsed. The reason for his scream is revealed, though:
The woman is cradling her dead daughter.
And that’s it.
A few questions: If Nick’s mother is dead, then who was the woman who kept calling him and berating him like a crazy person? His aunt posing as his mom? If that’s the case- why was she such an ungrateful bitch? What about Sharon and her baby? What happens to them? Did those Spanish guys ever try to return Nick’s car? Why was the offensive landscaper even included in this mess? Also- and it was asked a couple of paragraphs ago- but what did the mass grave have to do with anything again? Nothing? Just filler? Okay then.
See what I meant about no resolution to integral parts of the story? These characters and sub-plots were just thrown in to extend the length of the movie without offering any real purpose.
I’m going to need to watch a decent horror movie to cleanse my palate before I dive back into these Netflix disasters again- and we’re not even halfway through October yet!