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Review: Horror-thriller ‘Drifter’ is a semi-successful exercise in genre homage

Aria Emory in the horror-thriller "Drifter."
(XLrator Media)

Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma proved that there’s nothing wrong with filmmakers wearing influences on their sleeves, provided they also bring their own personality and gusto. Writer-director Chris von Hoffman’s debut feature, “Drifter,” hits its target about half the time. Sometimes it’s impressively funky and stylish, and sometimes tediously derivative.

Von Hoffman’s co-writer, Aria Emory, plays Miles, who along with his brother, Dominic (Drew Harwood), drives through a post-apocalyptic desert on a mission of revenge. When Miles gets injured in a fight with other nomads, the boys are taken in by the kindly Vijah (Monique Rosario) in a grungy small town lorded over by a colorfully sadistic creep.

“Drifter” overcomes a dinky budget with inventive makeup effects, costumes and striking art direction. Von Hoffman weaves in dynamic camera moves and grotesquerie, aiming for an atmosphere somewhere between Robert Rodriguez, Rob Zombie and David Lynch.

The movie stumbles though with its dialogue and performances, which are nearly all in muted tough-guy mode, featuring a lot of whispered threats and droning monologues — and only the occasional scream to break up the monotony.

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Still, there’s a level of wild B-movie ambition here that’s preferable to the usual blandly violent, overly serious genre fare. If nothing else, Von Hoffman clearly has a voice — even if his accents are imitations.

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‘Drifter’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood

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