The Passenger is available to rent or buy.
Since his short queer horror Bugcrush in 2006, Carter Smith has brought us some of the most creative and bold slices of horror seen on the big screen. Smith has an innate ability to submerge his audience in the action, making you feel like you are there, witnessing the events unfold. The Passenger, written by Jack Stanley, uses Smith’s skills to their full as we are taken on a devilishly clever, violent and revelatory road trip alongside twenty-one-year-old Bradley ( the brilliant Johnny Berchtold) and his co-worker turned kidnapper Benson ( the superb Kyle Gallner).
From the opening scenes, The Passenger carries unease in abundance as Bradley arrives for work at the dirty, sleazy, bland fast-food joint where he scrapes together a living. Among a 70s-inspired cornucopia of yellow, orange, and brown, he gets the joint ready for the day alongside the quiet but ever-present Benson (Kyle Gallner), the obnoxious Chris (Matthew Laureano) and his lover Jess (Jordan Sherley), both of whom are more interested in bullying the unassuming Bradley than work. It’s a toxic environment that is about to turn into a murder scene when Benson snaps after witnessing Bradley’s constant torment at the hands of Chris. But what is Benson’s motivation for saving Bradley, and why does he force him into a road trip to nowhere following the carnage?
At first glance, The Passenger may appear to fall into the tried and tested ‘on the run’ road movie narrative. But don’t be fooled, as under the hood, this is a complex psychological thriller about two men whose lives are haunted by childhood trauma. One, Berchtold, is a passenger in his own life, living in constant fear. The other, Gallner, is an unstable force, unable to contain his feelings, anger and emotions as he drives toward an uncertain future. As we soon discover, Benson and Bradley, or Randy as we later learn, are two sides of the same coin, one speeding toward destruction while the other finally wakes up from the coma of his daily existence.
Carter’s MGM + movie is taut, thrilling, violent and psychologically complex as it speeds toward a conclusion that never falls into lazy cliches or standard thriller tropes. Quietly arriving on UK platforms this week to rent or buy, The Passenger is one of the most creative thrillers of the year, with Berchtold and Gallner’s exquisite and powerful performances lighting up the screen as two young men collide in a deep ocean of unspoken trauma, endless violence and uneasy enlightenment.
Carter Smith’s MGM + movie is taut, thrilling, violent and psychologically complex as it speeds toward a conclusion that never falls into lazy cliches or standard thriller tropes.