Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Director: Brian Frank Visciglia
Writer: Brian Frank Visciglia, Kat Silvia, Dustin Frost
Producer: David Wachs, Brian Frank Visciglia, Ario Zag
Stars: David Wachs, Jessica Michel, Ronnie Alvarez, Kyle Schmidt, Claudia Funk
A serial killer assumes the identity of a rideshare driver to embark on a murder spree across Los Angeles.
Veteran viewers of indie horror who use IMDb as a regular resource are used to seeing ballot-stuffing shenanigans from low-budget movies desperate to fool people into thinking their thriller isn’t trash. Casual film fans might not spot these tired tactics straight away, however.
I recognized something was shady with “Ryde” when I went to transpose basic credits into my review template and noticed its IMDb user score was 7.2/10 based on 1,275 ratings. Indie horror films simply do not have scores this high any more than they have that many people registering a vote within a week of a VOD debut either. A quick look at the demographic breakdown reinforced suspicions with a laughably whopping 91% of voters awarding 7-10 stars.
Free tip for anyone who still thinks viewers are too dumb to see through such scams: Films like “Star Wars,” “Halloween,” and “Citizen Kane” don’t even skew that high. If you’re going to employ shill votes, exercise a little restraint by distributing numbers a bit more believably.
Also, recruit more longstanding accounts to post your phony raves. Tell them to tone down the hyperbole while they’re at it too. When someone writes 10-star praise declaring the movie “my new favorite thriller!!!” from a virgin account registered that same day, you’ll forgive me if I assume the person posting is full of sh*t.
This nonsense had me reconsidering a screening, because this is the type of situation where anyone willing to do the above is equally likely to hassle me under the guise of a random commenter, telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about because I haven’t directed a feature of my own. (See how I cut you off at the pass there?)
Except I do know what I’m talking about. And what I know is that whatever the unknown number of disposable DTV detritus I’ve reviewed is up to now, “Ryde” increases it by one.
“Ryde” doesn’t have a plot, but it does have a premise. Paul is a personality-free serial killer stuck in the Stone Age of having never seen a ridesharing app before. When his latest victim introduces Paul to Ryde, a service that weirdly allows users to summon specific drivers no matter where they are, Paul finds a convenient resource for providing him with fresh meat by becoming a Ryde driver through force.
Meant to be macabre, it’s an unintentionally amusing idea actually. Paul is portrayed as concocting this scheme on the spot, virtually saying to himself, “why don’t I just kill my driver and assume his identity?” on a whim. He then even takes at least one passenger on a ride without incident, as if giving the gig a go for a moment before thinking, “nah, I’d rather beat these people to death instead.”
The right way to make a horror movie out of this setup is to incorporate any sort of ripped-from-the-headlines reality that countless rideshare customers could conceive of as being relatable. How many unfortunately authentic Uber and Lyft horror stories are out there involving experiences ranging from downright creepy to outright fatal?
Instead, “Ryde” pairs an implausible notion with a made-for-cable quality cheapening how chilling it can be. Presenting itself with more softcore sensationalism than truly terrorizing thrills, “Ryde” makes an additionally weird choice to spend the crux of its time in the killer’s POV rather than the main victim’s. That’s no way for an audience to emotionally invest in anything happening onscreen.
At the other end of nefarious affairs is a protagonist whose every developmental detail is immediately thrown away. In Jasmine’s introductory scene, a big deal is made about her finding a wallet on the street for some unknown reason. Then there is a reveal that she is pregnant yet doesn’t know it, which you’ll forget by the time it is mentioned for the second and final meaningless time 80 minutes later.
In that regard, Jasmine is an even matchup for Paul, as both have vacuously nondescript personas. Unless Jasmine’s clichéd relationship troubles with a ridiculously inconsiderate assh*le counts as characterization.
“Ryde” looks slick visually. Cinematography is pretty on point with keeping imagery engaging. The scenic Los Angeles/Hollywood tour taken throughout the movie at least isn’t half bad, if more than a bit geographically confused.
But “Ryde” basically boils down to a simple series of pancake-flat vignettes of violence, broken up by speedy street scene montages. “Ryde” is unhealthily obsessed with brutality against women specifically, with one scene featuring Paul punching a passenger so much that her head tears off. Once you lose count of how many times Paul slams a woman’s face into something to bloodily knock her unconscious, you know you’re in deep with a one-trick movie. And that one trick isn’t entertaining at all.
Review Score: 25