Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to AJ Feuerman of Gravitas Ventures for allowing me early access to the new Horror/Thriller film, “Ryde”, Co-Written by Kat Silvia and Brian Visciglia (the latter of which directed as well). Ryde is a modern-day thriller set amidst our current worldwide boom in technological advancements. We’re a social media juggernaut and Ryde is the latest app in transport services (the equivalent of Uber). It allows payment to be completed prior to your ride, and ultimately places your fate in the hands of a stranger that’s behind the wheel. Ryde follows a number of people across the course of their night in LA, namely young couple, Jasmine and Marcus (played by Jessica Serfaty and Ronnie Alvarez). The film also stars David Wachs, Claudia Funk, Kyle Thomas Schmidt and Veronica Loren. Ryde is Brian’s debut feature-length film and Kat Silvia’s first writing credit.
Kat and Brian’s script isn’t something entirely new but the technology theme has relevance in society, now more than ever. It’s not so far-fetched of a notion to think that in the hands of the wrong individual, your safety might be at risk. We pay it little attention but how much do we really know when it comes to the specifics? Do we seek clarification like we probably should? In reality, everywhere we look there are dangers and that’s the image Ryde ultimately works on. It’s a typical night at a local LA bar, Paul (played by David Wachs), deep in thought while slowly sipping from his wine glass, is approached by a gorgeous young woman, thus setting the nights events in motion. I can see the similarities with the opening of Franck Khalfoun’s remake of “Maniac” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/maniac-2013-review/. The bright city lights, the bare streets and the psychology at play between characters. There’s a stylishly presented credit montage with synth backing it while someone takes their Ryde car through the automatic wash. Dawid Rymar’s 4K cinematography is extremely slick and drives the surprisingly high production value in what is essentially a low-budget film. The framing is consistent, the shot choices are neat and there’s some really smooth time lapses in the edit. My favourite shot builds some early suspense with an exchange between a close up on a characters feet and another person moving around in the bedroom. The audio track is nice and clear too. The films pacing is perfect, and at just 80 minutes it never feels stagnant. Fans looking for violence won’t be disappointed. There’s a surprisingly violent kill early in the first act, and one other kill in particular was extremely nasty and graphic with its aftermath of practical blood and gore.
Not only does Wachs play a lead character, he also helped compose the films stellar score with Scott Welch. Together, these guys have comprised an engaging, energetic and synth pounding soundtrack reminiscent of the aforementioned, “Maniac” and even Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterpiece, “Drive”. The score is like a character in of itself, and through that, helps generate most of the films suspense rather than relying on it through the action. The duo integrate some elevation into the score with guitar spikes on occasion, and there’s a wonderful three-note piano motif used throughout the film as a contrast to all the violence that occurs. What I like most about Ryde was Silvia and Visciglia’s desire to write even their secondary characters in a sympathetic but entertaining fashion. It’s quite rare in the horror genre to have every character entertain you, and more importantly, for you to care about each of their fates (okay so maybe not all of them haha). I think there was a distinct focus on Jasmine being presented as a strong and resilient girl, and that ends up paying dividends because you want her to break free from her troubles. Women are mentally strong, a lot stronger than men and they can endure a lot and that can be a powerful thing. Serfaty isn’t just simply your Jessica Alba meets Amber Heard stunning beauty (although she is), she’s got good timing and natural mannerisms that lend themselves to this kind of reserved role. The remaining featured female cast in, Valerie Lynn Smith, Claudia Funk, Chloe Catherine Kim, Lindsay Crolius and Veronica Loren are all easy on the eyes and deliver mostly solid performances too. Having watched the film a couple of weeks ago now, some of the specifics have gotten a little foggy. David Wachs is really the highlight of the film with such a controlled performance involving little dialogue. Even more impressive is that it’s not like he’s playing a disconnected, downtrodden “mamma’s boy”, Frank like character (Maniac). He’s a pretty boy. He’s got the looks and the charm and the ease with which to make people feel secure.
I couldn’t find any flaws in the technical side of the production and that’s extremely unusual for an independent low-budget film. I think barring a couple of flat reactions from Mary (played by Loren) in her emotional build up with Paul, the performances were satisfying. I’ve got the odd complaint with a few of the scripts finer points, namely the process with which the Ryde service works and the character arc of Marcus. I would have thought one would be required to input some personal details in order to take part as a driver in the Ryde program, such as name, drivers license, home address. Any number of those details so as to avoid any problems between drivers and passengers or the security liability that would surely go with a service like that. I don’t know a lot about it but that seemed like a stretch, or maybe there isn’t a thorough or legitimate screening process, and if that is the case Kat and Brian have stayed the correct course. At one point Paul takes action in an alley way after having eavesdropped on a conversation that eventually gets the better of him. You have to question whether he would do that so deep in the city with a high risk of being seen by someone. Marcus (Alvarez) was the only character in the film I didn’t like (I guess there’s always one) and this guy is the reason a lot of us get nowhere with women. I’ve never been able to understand why someone in his position (with a gorgeous partner so far out of his league) would continually act like such an asshole, I suppose life imitates art though. I can’t really fault the writing because this type of thing obviously happens in real relationships, but it irritates me when I have to watch it. The absent exposition behind our main character, as well as the lack of motive for his behavior, might bother the viewers that are looking for a little more clarity. I do think Paul’s introduction at the bar could have been delved into a little deeper, had him show a little more restraint in order to better set up the subsequent plot development. I didn’t expect anywhere near the level of violence I got in Ryde, but once it got going I couldn’t help but notice the missed opportunity to remove a characters head during one particular action sequence.
Ryde is a suspenseful cautionary tale that takes place through downtown LA, and boasts an impressive cast and crew led by a first time filmmaker in Brian Visciglia. It feels like a cross between Julien Seri’s French thriller, “Night Fare” and Jared Cohn’s, “Death Pool” (only much better) in the approach to its cold and calculated antagonist at the forefront of events. I dig the Maniac and Drive influences and the cinematography from Rymar deserves a special mention, primarily because logistically speaking this would have been a nightmare to shoot (due to the amount of external shots on the streets of LA). The audio is crisp, the lighting effective and the edit comes together seamlessly. The success of Ryde rests on its strong-willed and confident protagonist in Jasmine, while welcoming the addition of likeable secondary characters that you normally wouldn’t care about. Karl (played by Schmidt) is perhaps the most fun and pleasant character I’ve seen in a film this year. Nearly all the performances are great, there’s eye candy for both sexes (even some nudity) and the end result is unexpectedly visceral and violent. There’s a couple of great on-screen kills and some memorable practical effects. David and Scott’s score might just be the best one this year and it’s probably my favourite thing about the film. There’s a few drawbacks in the script, namely those couple of plot points that seem to stretch a little credibility. I really despised Marcus (although Alvarez was solid in the role) because I’d give my left kidney for a girl like Jasmine (or Jessica) and the guy couldn’t fathom what he had. Lastly, I would’ve loved to have seen a couple of the kills go that extra mile but I guess you can’t have it all. The trivial aside, Ryde might just be the best independent Horror/Thriller of the year. Keep an eye out for this one in limited theaters and on demand from the 15th of September! Check out the trailer below.
My rating for “Ryde” is 8/10