When I first received the movie ‘Super Hybrid’ in a batch of DVDs to review initially I thought it was just another rip off of horror films exhibiting far better craftsmanship. While the sub genre of homicidal motor vehicles nothing can approach the classics like ‘Christine’ of ‘Duel’ this movie was a pleasant surprise. It did offer a different approach to the theme in a very economically presented horror flick that actually quite entertaining. It developed the standard character archetypes placing them in an almost traditionally Gothic horror setting. Although it is fairly predictable in outcome but does offer some interesting twists to arrive there. The acting is above the usual horror movie wooden performances and for once there is a representative film in this genre that does not rely on several hundred gallons of fake blood, several pounds of animal intestines and characters limited to a bunch of drugged out, horny teens. In many ways ‘Super Hybrid’ is a more mature movie, at least in its composition. It has become exceedingly rare for an American horror flick to take a psychological approach to frightening the audience. The Japanese horror oriented filmmakers typical retain this methodology so it is refreshing to see someone expediting its return to our shores. The first way the filmmaker distanced this movie from the hackneyed pack was going with an underlying premise of the killer car. The twist is inherent in the title although as it turns out the clue is not as overtly presented as you might expect. In this film the situation is the foundation for what is basically a character driven story. The people depicted here come across as realistically drawn and relatable. There are just enough back stories provided to the main characters to justify their reactions to the circumstances which the story places them. There was just something about this movie I found appealing and fun to watch. It had many of the elements of the old fashion creature features that were a large part of the Saturday afternoon matinees that dominated my formative years of as a film buff. Perhaps these factors added a touch of a halo effect to my appreciation of this film but if you are a fan of traditional fifties horror you are certain to enjoy this film.
Tilda (Shannon Beckner) is a young working class woman just hoping that someday she can get life to cut her a break. She lives in as little apartment with her boyfriend who is indistinguishable from being completely worthless. He has been ‘recovering’ from some back injury for a prolonged period of time. This not only keeps him from seriously seeking gainful employment but also precludes any possibility of household chores. One of the many complaints he heaps on Tilda is to make sure she repairs his car since public transportation makes him perspire. Tilda is the only source of income working the night shift at a car impound garage for the Chicago police department. The workplace offers no relief from macho idiocy thanks in large part to the obnoxious shift supervisor Ray (Oded Fehr). Mostly Tilda is treated like the other mechanics with much of the more chauvinistic remarks targeting the tight dress and hills wearing secretary, Maria (Melanie Papalia). Tilda is a gear head at heart respected by her fellow mechanics and looked upon as an ad hoc leader. This goes especially for the youngest of the crew, Bobby (Ryan Kennedy), who happens to be her nephew although due to the closeness in age she told everyone they are cousins. Tilda enjoys the challenge of fixing up cars but in general the job is insufferable. The night began like any other that is until the screaming started.
It all started when a strange ‘black car was brought in just before the shift began. Soon afterwards one of the workers in the garage turns up missing. They notice something odd about the new car; it is indistinct. Tilda has never been stumped in determining a car’s year, make and model but this one eluded her expertise; it is like someone created the car from an imperfect memory getting some minor details off kilter. In short order it becomes obvious that the car is alive, apparently a hybrid for of a squid like creature with the ability to alter its form to blend in, inconspicuous to its prey. This creature can look like a car which allows it to be proactive, stalking its meal. This revelation was arrived at rather quickly which may be efficient story telling bur it requires a jump in the audience’s ability to suspend belief. Then again this was typical of the fifties creature genre this movie resembles. The beast is voracious unstoppable as it munches through the entire shift. Making matters as bad as possible Ray had all the emergency exits welded shut to prevent the ‘crack heads’ from gaining access. Now the car has them trapped on the uppermost level slowly picking them off.
The classic elements required for a vintage creature feature are well represented here; first you need to isolate the perspective meals from any hope of rescue. This was handily accomplished by the short sighted supervisor locking everyone in with an illegal maneuver to keep the unsavory elements out. Yes, it is a touch contrived but real life is made up of such circumstances. Once the group is trapped just mess with the electrical power plunging them into a moody darkness and the stage is set. Tilda is the ideal example of one of the most well used tropes in horror; the survivor girl. In contrast to the physical appearance obsessed Maria Tilda is tough. She rides a motorcycle and dresses for comfort and practicality. When it comes to moments before the hungry car creature goes for sloppy seconds Tilda takes charge devising a plan to trap the car and get away. Strong, resourceful and determined Tilda is the one that will walk away at the end. One thing I did find very interesting is how director Eric Valette and screenwriter Benjamin Carr humanize Tilda. Both are established in the genre but the way they build a foundation of one weakness in her personal life; putting up with the ultimate loser at home. This creates a situation of a very reasonable person in the most unreasonable circumstances. This plot devise make for a more identifiable protagonist. In all the film is solid entertainment and a fun beer and pizza night flick.